The Malaysian Air Force has reportedly shortlisted India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas as one of the contenders for supplying 36 new aircraft in this category.
If New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur agree to sign the deal, it will be the first foreign sale undertaken by the Indian government-owned aerospace and defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), headquartered in the city of Bengaluru.
Apart from India’s Tejas, the other proposed aircraft being considered are China’s JF-17, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, the Russian YAK-130, BAE Systems’ armed Hawk and Sweden’s Gripen, defence sources said on Monday while requesting anonymity.
Some Light Combat Aircraft (#LCA) details from #Malaysia as they look to replace Hawks, Aermacchis and MiGs. 36 LCAs wanted plus options for 26 more. Approved at AF-level, waiting for gov launch Q1 2020. pic.twitter.com/Qmis8z0SWI— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) November 14, 2019
HAL will respond to the Request for Proposal (RFP) when it is received and will try to make an offer that matches Malaysian Air Force requirements, the sources stated.
There is a concern, however, that the proposed deal may not take off due to diplomatic and trade ties between both the countries currently being strained.
Bilateral ties between Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi experienced a setback in September this year after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad told members of the UN General Assembly that India had “invaded and occupied” the then-state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is the subject of an ongoing dispute with Pakistan.
In August, India had abrogated the special quasi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and followed it up by creating two separate central government-administered union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh – on 31 October.
Pakistan was joined by Malaysia as well as China and Turkey in objecting to India’s recent changes in Kashmir. New Delhi, however, has consistently rejected criticism over the development from foreign countries, insisting it is an internal affair.
HAL’s Tejas LCA is said to have better avionics and weapons systems than the other fighter jets vying for the Malaysian Air Force contract, defence sources said. They claimed that the LCA has the capacity to be integrated with both Russian and Western weaponry.
The annual production rate of Tejas LCA is a mere eight aircraft per year and there is a proposal to double it to 16 aircraft per year, sources stated.