In 2003, the LCA was officially named 'TEJAS'. It is the smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary supersonic jet

HAL is actively promoting India's TEJAS fighter jet to the Philippines Air Force (PAF) amid fierce competition from established global rivals.

A team from India's aerospace major, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is actively promoting the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) 'TEJAS' to the Philippines Air Force (PAF), despite facing fierce competition from established global rivals. While the Philippines embarks on the Modernization Program's Horizon Two, which initiated the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) tender in 2018, the acquisition of 12 "fourth generation or higher" multi-role fighter jets is on the horizon. This marks a significant milestone for the PAF, as it represents their first acquisition of fighter jets since the retirement of the Northrop F-5 Tigers in 2005.

However, the road for HAL's TEJAS appears challenging, with competitors such as Lockheed Martin's F-16V and SAAB's JAS-39C enjoying established reputations. Notably, South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is advocating the FA-50 as a cost-effective option for PAF modernization. The PAF already operates 12 FA-50PH aircraft and South Korea has offered to upgrade the fleet, enhancing their capabilities for various missions, including air-to-air ground, air-to-sea, and air-to-air. This entails integrating radar and targeting systems and adding a 300-gallon external fuel tank to extend combat range.

Capabilities of The FA-50PH Aircraft

The FA-50PHs have a top speed of Mach 1.5 and can be equipped with air-to-air missiles, including AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles, in addition to light automatic cannons and bombs. The Philippines acquired a dozen FA-50s from Korea Aerospace Industries for PHP 18.9 billion, with deliveries commencing in November 2015 and concluding in May 2017. These aircraft were deployed during the Battle for Marawi, a five-month conflict in 2017.

Despite challenges, HAL's team is optimistic, citing concerns about the operational readiness of half of the Philippines' FA-50 fighter jets, which were grounded due to logistics problems. The TEJAS faces formidable competitors in the form of Lockheed Martin's F-16 and SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen, making it an underdog in the race.

Nevertheless, the presence of the HAL team in the Philippines has reignited hopes for TEJAS' prospects, indicating that it is not ready to concede defeat.

TEJASs' Quest For Export Deals

TEJAS has been making waves in the defence export market with its aggressive positioning, although it has not yet secured any export deals. Following a setback in the Malaysian tender, even the Argentinian fighter jet deal seemed to slip from TEJAS' grasp. Presently, the Indian Air Force is the sole operator of TEJAS. The recent signing of a US$368 million contract for an India-made Brahmos supersonic missile and an MOU between the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) indicate the Philippines' interest in ALH Dhruv and DHRUV MK-III.

During the first-ever visit of a Filipino Coast Guard chief to India, HAL conducted a Customer Demonstration Flight onboard DHRUV MK-III in Goa. The DHRUV MK-III is a variant of the indigenous Dhruv Helicopter and has already been inducted into the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. Weighing 5.5 tons, it falls into the multi-role, multi-mission category of versatile helicopters.

The DHRUV MK-III features cutting-edge surveillance radar, capable of detecting and identifying ships and boats up to 120 nautical miles away, significantly enhancing the Coast Guard's ability to monitor the Indian coastal regions. With an electro-optical sensor, it can even monitor the smallest vessels at distances of up to 30 nautical miles. Besides maritime reconnaissance, the helicopter can execute long-range Search and Rescue operations. It is also equipped with a heavy machine gun for constabulary missions, making it a valuable asset for a range of Coast Guard operations.