Hello defence lovers! Recently in the HAL’s annual report 2021, it has revealed that it has answered the Royal Australian Air force’s RFI with the indigenous Tejas LIFT. In this article we are going to discuss what are the chances that Tejas will be selected for this contract. We will also discuss its primary rivals in the competition.
Royal Australian Airfroce’s Current Fleet
Before discussing the potential of Tejas in RAAF, let us first look at the inventory of RAAF. the current inventory of the Australian airforce consists of 33 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multirole fighters, 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters and 53 old McDonnell Douglas F/A 18 fighters. RAAF also operates 49 Pilatus PC-21 and 33 BAe Hawk 127 lead-in fighter trainers.
The 33 BAe Hawk 127 are older versions and will be phased out very soon due to the limitations of the airframe. RAAF released an RFI last year for a replacement of these aircraft. Now according to reports, HAL has also responded to this RFI with its Tejas LIFT/SWIFT which it is developing for the US navy’s tender. Now let us look at the competitors of Tejas one by one which will be competing for this contract.
T 50 Golden Eagle
The T 50 golden eagle is a South Korean supersonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft family developed by Korean Aerospace Industry along with assistance from the American giant Lockheed Martin. It is being produced for over two decades and almost 200+ units are operating today. It is operated by South Korea itself along with Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand. Like our Tejas, its trainer variant is also a derivative of the actual fighter. Thus apart from trainer roles, it can also perform fighter roles. It should be noted that KAI T50 uses the GE f404 engine, the same engine which powers Tejas.
Aermacchi M-346 is an Italian family of jet trainers and light combat aircraft. It was jointly developed with Russian firm Yakolev. But the joint ventured was dissolved. Yakolev designed yak 130 trainer and Armacchi developed M346. It is powered by two small Honeywell engines each producing 28KN. It is already developed by Azerbaijan, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Poland, Singapore and Turkmenistan.
Boeing T-7 Red Hawk
The T-7 red Hawk is a brand new fighter developed jointly by Swedish Giant Saab group and American giant Boeing. It was specially developed for the US Airforce’s TX competition to replace the ageing Northop T-38 Talon. It has been already declared the winner of the TX competition and has received orders of more than 300 units. It is also competing with Tejas in the US Navy’s programme for trainers. It also uses the GE F404 engine.
If we look at the completion, the Aermacchi M 346 has the least chance. It has the least manoeuvrability and agility compared to the other aircraft in the competition. Also, it uses Honeywell engines. Now let us look at the two prime competitors, the T 50 Golden Eagle and T 7 red hawk. Both these fighters along with Tejas uses the General Electric F 404 engine. RAAF existing fleet’s frontline fighter F/A 18 super hornet and hornet use the same GE F404 engines. Thus choosing a fighter that uses this engine will be a logistical blessing for the RAAF.
Technologically Tejas is superior to all the fighters since it is a full-fledged fighter designed to be the workhorse of the IAF. Tejas SWIFT/LIFT is the most capable fighter in the lot. Due to its delta wing design, it has superior manoeuvrability. It can also mimic the flight characteristics of any given aircraft. Apart from being a trainer, it can also be used in actual combat with minor tweaks. On the other hand, T 7 is a dedicated trainer jet and T 50 Golden hawk is an adapted copy of the old F16. But compared to these two fighters Tejas has lesser chances. RAAF has traditionally used American platforms. T7 Redhawk is produced by Boeing and thus it will be pitched aggressively by the lobbyists. The same story is true for the T 50 golden eagle as it is jointly developed with the American firm Lockheed Martin. If the competition is an unbiased and neutral competition, Tejas is worthy of achieving the contract. HAL needs to aggressively pitch the sale of Tejas to Australia. Our marketing strategy must be strong if we want to transform ourselves from an importer of weapons to an exporter.