Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday 14 November said many countries in the South East Asian region have expressed their willingness to purchase Tejas aircraft, India’s indigenously-built light combat aircraft.
The HAL Tejas is a single-engine, delta-wing multirole light fighter designed by India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN). It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace the IAF’s India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters, and was named in 2003, Tejas. After a protracted development the planned number of Tejas in the IAF is 324 aircraft of several variants. The first batch consisted of 40 Mark 1 aircraft, 16 IOC standard and 16 FOC standard delivery to commence by end of 2019, followed by eight two-seat trainers. Last year, the IAF issued the request for proposal (RFP) to HAL for the procurement of another batch of 83 Tejas which are to be an upgraded Mark 1A. The Tejas Mark 2, also called Medium Weight Fighter, is to feature the more powerful General Electric F414-GE-IN5 engine, and is expected to be ready for series production by 2025-26
HAL has announced that it will be able to offer Mark 1 to the price-sensitive market in Southeast Asia while Mark 1A will be offered to countries where technology will be the key decision-maker in the process of selection. HAL is already in process of integration of Mark 1A and it is expected that upgraded LCA-Tejas will be ready for its first flight by 2022 and will enter production soon after in 2023.
HAL is also planning to develop a Supersonic Omni Role Trainer Aircraft (SPORT) based on the Tejas Trainer variant which, if successful, would have great export potential from South and eastern Asian countries who are in the market for advanced trainer/light attack aircraft in the region. However, this development would be subject to government funding.