(This was originally posted in Financial Express by HUMA SIDDIQUI)
By the end of September 2021, the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is expected to respond to a Request for Proposal (RfP) from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). The Malaysian Air Force has sent out a global request for low-cost light fighter aircraft. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a top officer has confirmed to Financial Express Online “The Company will be responding to the RfP from RMAF for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) `Tejas’. And it has to be sent at the end of September
As has been reported earlier this year, on the sidelines of the 13th edition of Aero-India, R Madhavan, chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has told Financial Express Online that “Several Southeast Asian and Middle East countries evinced interest in the indigenous LCA `Tejas’ Mk 1A fighter aircraft.” “At a vanilla price of just Rs 309 crore per aircraft, the export version of the fighters are going to be different from those which are going to be inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF),” he added.
While the aircraft will be exported at the price of Rs 309 crore (making it the cheapest fighter globally), there will be extra charges for the services to be provided overseas. The RMAF had first expressed interest in `Tejas’ LCA from HAL in 2019. For the first time ever `Tejas’ showcased its might during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in Malaysia.
The South Asian country has invited proposals from various competitors including: FA-50 light attack aircraft developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI); M-346FA Fighter Attack aircraft variant developed by Leonardo, of Italy; Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft developed by United Aircraft Corporation of Russia; and JF-17 of China. India’s ‘Tejas’ had its first international exposure during the Bahrain International Air Show back in 2016.
More about the LCA Programme
Because of the government’s efforts, the Tejas program has received a major shot in the arm in boosting the Atamanirbhar drive in the aerospace and aeronautics. According to a top officer, “The production rate for this increased requirement by IAF is being augmented by HAL from 8 to 16 aircraft every year through the creation of a state-of-the-art new facility in Bengaluru.”
Tejas would have the highest level of indigenisation in comparison to any programme of this scale with progressive indigenisation of critical technologies, thereby making India a technologically self-reliant nation. The programme would check out the developing technologies indigenously.
“LCA-Tejas program follows the system integrator model and has created a national aerospace ecosystem with the participation of more than 560 companies from large to SMEs which encompass all the facets of aircraft design and manufacturing. It is estimated that once the LCA MK1A program in India kicks off, primary jobs to a tune of 5000 are expected to be generated across the country. The programme will foster local industry and drive skill development of young Indian workforce.”
“More than 200 Indian companies are involved in tooling, GSEs, and GHEs supplies for the program. To date, the LCA program is estimated to have produced 50,000 primary and secondary jobs across the nation. And, in the country’s aerospace history, the LCA-program enabled partnership with Indian private players manufacturing aircraft fuselage and wings. Some of the major companies contributing in the LCA program from the private sector are VEMv technologies, L&T, DTL, Alpha Toccol, TAML, Data Patterns, Pendios, Compupower and many others,” said the officer quoted above.
What is Malaysia looking at?
The country is planning to buy 36 light combat aircraft (LCA) which will be added to its existing fleets in the Air Force. According to reports, Malaysia is assessing India’s Tejas, Chinese JF-17 and F/A 50 of South Korea. If and when the LCA gets exported, the whole programme will get a much-needed boost and HAL will get international recognition in the global market for its design capabilities and the product will also get validated.
Tejas specifications & Speed:
It is an advanced Fly-by-wire (FBW) fighter which has been designed, developed, and manufactured by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL. It is a 4+ generation fighter and comes with a glass cockpit with Satellite aided Inertial Navigation System.
It is capable of firing Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, can carry air-to-surface, air-to-air, precision-guided and standoff bombs and precision-guided munitions. It can hit targets over land or sea. The aircraft can be refuelled mid-air which will increase its combat radius. The Made in India aircraft has a height 4.40 metre, wingspan of 8.20 metre, and length of 13.20 metre, and maximum speed is supersonic at all altitudes. It has a service ceiling of 50,000 feet and ‘g’ limits +8/-3.5.