Bengaluru: West Asia first, and South-east Asia next: Made in India combat jet 'Tejas' is going places, quite literally.
This fighter aircraft will demonstrate its prowess for the first time at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), Asia Pacific's premier maritime and aerospace event in Malaysia, March 26-30, 2019. The two-seater trainer variant of ‘Tejas’ is also likely to debut at this exhibition as many potential customers, including Malaysia, are keen to weigh up the military jet after it garnered rave reviews at the Bahrain air show in 2016. One West Asian nation sent a senior minister to Bengaluru in 2018 to check out this multi-role, light combat aircraft, and has reportedly sought extensive flight trials back home – an indication that an export order is on the anvil.
Sources in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) said IAF pilots would fly the fighter and the trainer variant to Malaysia from the air force station at Sulur in Tamil Nadu where the No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) is based. HAL has commenced production of combat-ready fighter jets which meets all parameters of final operational clearance (FOC) beginning this month though a formal announcement on crossing the FOC milestone is likely to be made by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman during Aero India 2019 in Bengaluru next month.
Around the same time as the maritime and aerospace exhibition in Malaysia, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will hand over the 16th jet to the Indian Air Force to mark the formation of the first complete squadron of 'Tejas' combat aircraft of the air strike wing.
Sources said that the fighter and trainer variant along with the maintenance staff and spares will move to Malaysia just as they reached Bahrain in 2016. While the fighter jets flew over 2,500 km in three days to reach Bahrain for flying display, the Indian Air Force shipped the maintenance staff and spares onboard the gargantuan C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
Sources said the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) seems keen to evaluate 'Tejas', priced at Rs 200 crores, after eying the JF-17 Thunder fighter developed by China and manufactured in Pakistan.
Malaysia's defence minister is reportedly keen to fly 'Tejas' at the maritime and aerospace exhibition, sources added....