Hello defence lovers! Sri Lankan Airforce is celebrating its 70th Anniversary. On this occasion, it invited the Indian Airforce to participate. Indian contingent comprising of Surya Kiran Aerobatics team, Sarang display team along Tejas has participated in the celebrations. According to reports Sri Lanka is interested in procuring Tejas. However, Sri Lanka is not the first country that has expressed its interest in our LCA Tejas. Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, UAE, and Egypt has already expressed their interest in Tejas. So in this article, we are going to understand the export potential of Tejas.
Sri Lankan Airforce is a pretty small airforce which operates hand full of aircraft. It barely posses few Chinese made J7s and old Israeli IAI Kafir. The primary role of these fighters was bombing the rebels during the civil war.
Sri lanka has already refused the proposal to purchase the 10th generation Spaceship-fighter JF 17 thunder from Pakistan. Now Sri Lanka is eyeing the Indian Tejas. Tejas uses more reliable systems and an American engine. Thus it is going to be cheaper to operate than the maintenance -hungry Russian platforms or the platforms which use Russian engines. However, the probable order would be very less. Sri Lanka is a small island nation with very limited resources allocated to its military.
Bangladesh is another export market for Tejas. Currently, the Bangladesh Air force needs a low-cost multi-role aircraft to replace its ageing Chengdu F7 interceptors. Bangladesh as of now only possesses 8 Mig-29 and 36 F-7. Thus it lacks a modern fighter and is looking for one. Tejas could be Bangladesh’s perfect choice.
Last month during Aero India 2021, Bangladesh Airforce Chief Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat flew Tejas Trainer and was quite impressed with it. He is himself a veteran Mig 29 and F-7 pilot. According to Bangladesh media, India has also agreed to send Tejas to the Bangladesh air show 2022 where Bangladesh has also invited Chinese J-10 fighters. Bangladesh Air force is one of the potential customers of Tejas.
Two years ago the Indian Airforce demonstrated the capabilities of LCA Tejas to Malaysia during the International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 (LIMA–2019). According to reports Malaysia has shortlisted Tejas to fulfil its requirement of a light fighter aircraft, after evaluating China-Pakistan’s JF-17, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, Russian YAK-130 and the BAE Systems’ armed Hawk and the Swedish Gripen. Malaysia is going to purchase 36 LCA Tejas. An exchange system was also proposed by India where Malaysia would purchase Tejas by exchanging palm oil. The Malaysian air force also operates F 18 super hornets which use the same GE F414 engines which Tejas M1A would use which would make logistics easier. Malaysian Airforce could be India’s first export Market for indigenous fighters.
The Singapore Airforce has also expressed its interest in the Tejas LIFT trainers. Singapore operates F 16s and F 15s in significant numbers and also going to induct F 35 but lack the advance jet trainers. Tejas LIFT can be the perfect choice for the Singapore airforce and India would try to push its sales through its diplomatic channels.
Egyptian airforce is one of the largest and well equipped air force in the world and operates a large variety of fighters in large numbers. Egyptian airforce operates more than 200 F 16, 40+ Mig 29, Su 35, Rafale, Mirage 2000s, alpha jet, and Mirage 5. Egypt has expressed its interest in India’s Tejas LIFT programme to replace its old Mirage 5. Egypt is the most significant market for Tejas as selling the fighters to Egypt would build a different reputation for Tejas.
Tejas Lift is also participating in the US Navy’s tender to replace its Boeing T-45 Goshawk trainers. Although there are negligible chances of Tejas getting selected as the American Aerospace companies’ lobbyists would never let that happen.
Hurdles In Exporting LCA Tejas
Although India is pushing the Tejas hard for exports, there are many hurdles in the way. The first big one the issue of re-exporting American Engines. Although being indigenous Tejas yet uses the American GE F404 engines. The Americans can impose an embargo on the export of Tejas if they feel Tejas has defeated their platforms in the tender. Tejas will face the same fate as the Swedish Gripen unless India develops an indigenous engine. Some customers will turn away just because they have to rely on American firms for the supply of spare parts of the engines as the Americans are not as reliable in this regards as the Russians or Chinese.
The second big hurdles is the manufacturing rate. Even if Tejas secures large orders, with the current manufacturing speed HAL would not be able to deliver the orders in time. But once there are bulk orders the manufacturing speed can be increase without any trouble.
The way the Indian Government is pushing the LCA Tejas for exports is really appreciable. This is perhaps the first step for India to transform itself from one of the largest importers of arms to the largest exporters. Tejas’s export will also pave the way for the exports of LCH, TEDBF and AMCA.