Malaysian decision is tilting in HAL’s favour because of the Indian BVR missiles like the all-weather Astra missiles, advanced data link and spare parts for Su-30MKM. Further, the Tejas deal may be followed by BrahMos missiles for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
Next month, a high level delegation expected to be led by the top leader is expected to visit India and at that time most likely the deal will be signed. If and when it happens, India would have made another big export to an Asean country after the Philippines which had procured BrahMos supersonic missile from India.
And out of these five contenders, India is one of the countries to be down selected with its offering of LCA, and the other two are China which had fielded JF-17 and FA- 50 of Korean Aerospace Industries. State owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) manufacturer of the LCA has been vying for the Malaysian contract as the country looks to purchase a fleet of combat aircraft and has faced fierce competition from South Korea and Turkey. South Korean aircraft, FA-50 Golden Eagle, was touted by some analysts to be the eventual winner of a closely contested deal. However, the developments from Malaysia have almost signaled a win for the export version, LCA Tejas Mk1A.
More than LCA
Malaysia is in the market to replace its ageing fleet of fighters. However, its woes also extend to other platforms it procures from Russia. These have been facing servicing issues in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, the Malaysian requirement has been to equip the new fighter with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.
According to sources, “HAL responded with a comprehensive counter regarding the BVR requirement. And on Thursday (August 18, 2022) the company announced its first overseas marketing and sales office to be set up in Malaysia. In addition to providing LCA Tejas, it will provide Aviation Management Course, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and support local manufacturing. It will also be offering servicing and upgrades for the Malaysian fleet of Russian Su-30MKM and Hawk.”
In March 2022, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the stock of spare parts for the Su 30MKM was only sufficient for two years of operational needs. Therefore, Malaysia seeks to source spare parts from other countries, such as India.
The Malaysian decision is tilting in HAL’s favour because of the Indian BVR missiles like the all-weather Astra missiles. Further, the Tejas deal may be followed by BrahMos missiles for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
T-50 vs Tejas
The Kai T-50 Golden Eagle is a South Korean advanced supersonic jet trainer created in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. The T-50 Golden Eagle design is substantially based on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they share several similarities.
The Tejas Mark 1A, a modified version of the Tejas Mark 1 meant for export, will contain AESA radar, a new digital flight control computer, a new electronic warfare suite, and updated avionics. Tejas is an eight-hard point precision weapon launcher that can accommodate a variety of air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, unguided rockets, and conventional/retarded bombs.
Although both have near equal range, Tejas offers a greater service ceiling, maximum take-off weight and top speed. Another favourable point has been about integration as, like India, Malaysia uses a mix of Russian and NATO equipment, and the open architecture of the Tejas allows them to continue with this philosophy. FA-50 is said to be delivered sans missiles which also adds a cost of acquiring missiles for the fighters.
The expected deal between HAL and RMAF will be a comprehensive partnership between the two sides.