India has offered to sell 18 light combat aircraft (LCA) “Tejas” to Malaysia, the defence ministry said on Friday, adding that Argentina, Australia, Egypt, the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines were also interested in single-engine jets.
The Indian government last year awarded a $6 billion contract to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for 83 of the 83 locally produced Tejas jets for delivery around 2023, four decades after it was first introduced in 1983 approved.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, keen to reduce India’s reliance on foreign defence equipment, has also been making diplomatic efforts to export the jets. The Tejas has been beset by design and other challenges and was once rejected by the Indian Navy as too heavy.
The defence ministry told parliament that Hindustan Aeronautics, in October last year, responded to a request for proposal from the Royal Malaysian Air Force for 18 jets, offering to sell the two-seater variant of Tejas.
“Other countries which have evinced interest in the LCA aircraft are: Argentina, Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” India’s junior defence minister, Ajay Bhatt, told members of parliament in a written reply.
He said the country was also working on manufacturing a stealth fighter jet but declined to give a timeline citing national security concerns. Britain said it would support India’s goal of building its own fighter jets in April. India currently has a mix of Russian, British and French fighter jets.
India is looking to ground all its Soviet-era Russian fighter jets, the MiG-21, by 2025, following several fatal crashes, the Times of India daily reported last month