The US, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines are among six countries, which have shown interest in India’s Tejas aircraft while Malaysia has already shortlisted the jet under its acquisition programme, the government said on Friday. The other two countries that have evinced interest in the aircraft are Argentina and Egypt, according to minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt.
Tejas, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, is a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments. In February last year, the defence ministry sealed a Rs 48,000 crore deal with HAL for the procurement of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Replying to a question in Lok Sabha on Tejas, Bhatt said the HAL responded to a Request for Information (RFI) or initial tender received from Royal Malaysian Air Force in February 2019. Subsequently, the HAL responded in October 2021 to a Request For Proposal (RFP) issued by Malaysia for 18 aircraft, adding the twin-seater variant of the Tejas was offered.
Malaysia is procuring the aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Russian MiG-29 fighter planes. The number of aircraft that Malaysia is looking at procuring is not immediately clear. “Other countries which have evinced interest in LCA aircraft are Argentina, Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” he said.
Last month, the then Chairman and Managing Director of HAL R Madhavan said the Tejas aircraft has emerged as the top choice for Malaysia. To a separate question on whether the government proposes to manufacture a stealth fighter jet, Bhatt said “yes” and added the “autonomous flying wing technology demonstrator” has been successfully tested by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
“Further, the desired information is sensitive in nature and its disclosure is not in the interest of national security,” he said.