To face the global geopolitical challenges, India and Argentina on Friday reaffirmed their commitment to further deepening and diversifying their bilateral cooperation, in various sectors including nuclear energy, defence, and space.
The Argentine side expressed its interest in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ being manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). If the deal goes through, HAL will have to rework the LCA Tejas as per requirements of the South American nation.
Financial Express Online had first reported on the interest of the South American nation in 2021 and this was again discussed earlier this year in April when Minister of Foreign Affairs International Trade and Worship Santiago M Santiago Cafiero was in New Delhi.
According to a top diplomat, “The South America nation is in the process of modernizing its military platforms and is keen to collaborate with India and has expressed interest in various equipment it wants to buy from here. However, any platform with a British component will not be acceptable.”
At the Joint Commission Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of Foreign Affairs International Trade and Worship Cafiero, the two sides reviewed their cooperation in various sectors and have also decided to broaden and deepen their strategic partnership.
In a joint statement following the conclusion of Jaishankar’s visit both the countries have agreed to expand to further promote exchanges between the armed forces of both sides, as well as collaborate in joint production of defence related equipment.
During the meeting Argentine interest in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ for Argentine Air Force, was discussed and the two leaders highlighted the importance of the proposal in enhancing the strategic quotient of bilateral relationship.
Friction Point: Rift between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands
Off the coast of Argentina lie the Falkland Islands. The first settlers on the island were the French. The British settled the West Falkland in 1765 but were driven away by the Spanish. Although the British could restore their outpost, they withdrew from the island in 1774. However, they did not relinquish their claim. Until 1811, Spain maintained a settlement on the East Falkland. In 1820, Argentina declared independence from Spain and claimed the Falklands. Given how the British never gave up their claim, they appointed a lieutenant governor to their overseas territory of the Falklands.
The United Nations (UN) called on the UK and Argentina to negotiate a peaceful solution. However, when there was a failure to reach a consensus, in 1982, the Argentine government declared war to claim the Falklands. The Falkland Islands War culminated in the Argentine surrender to the British forces that were able to restore the island to the British by force.
In 2013, the government of the Falklands conducted a referendum that showed that barring just 3, all 1500 islanders sought to remain a British overseas territory. They enjoy British citizenship at the behest of an act that the UK passed after its victory in the Falkland Islands War against Argentina. The then Argentine President rejected the referendum’s result, calling it a parody. The President deemed it akin to squatters voting on whether to continue their illegal occupation.
Notably, in April 2022, Argentina launched a “Commission for Dialogue” with the UK in India. The Foreign Minister of Argentina launched the Commission, which called on the shared anti-colonial heritage, values, and traditional support for resolving the territorial dispute.
LCA Tejas Impacted by Argentina-UK Issue
It has about 60-75 per cent indigenous content by the number of line replaceable units (LRUs), something that the Argentine Air Force has expressed an issue with, specifically, the British LRUs. Out of approximately 360 LRUs, the UK is the origin of about 15-17 LRUs.
The LCA Tejas is a single engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter. Currently, HAL is set to export the Mark 1A variant of the Tejas that features a new avionics suite, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, DARE Unified Electronic Warfare Suite (UEWS) and an Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) developed by the Defence Bioengineering and Electro medical Laboratory (DEBEL) among other upgrades..
What needs to be changed?
“A radome is an electromagnetically transparent protective shield that encloses mmWave Radar sensors and the antenna. It protects the mmWave antenna and electronics from external environmental effects such as rain, sunlight, and wind, providing a structural, weatherproof enclosure. The LCA Tejas featured a radome from Cobham Limited, a UK aerospace manufacturer. The indigenous Uttam radars will most likely replace it,” ,” Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst explained to Financial Express Online.
According to Girish Linganna, “Another culprit is Dunlop, the Scottish brand that makes the tyres for the LCA Tejas. Indian manufacturer MRF Tyres is reportedly replacing Dunlop. Over 15 LRUs were sourced from various British manufacturers for the LCA Tejas. Currently, HAL seems to be calling upon the Indian industry, including various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) like Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), for innovative indigenous replacements to secure the Argentine contract.”
Shedding the Irreplaceable: Shaking the British Ejector Seat Monopoly
Ejector seats are a vital component and safety feature of fighter jets. Worldwide, the British manufacturer, Martin Baker, provides ejection seats for over 90 air forces. The LCA also sports a Martin-Baker ejection seat. The company has pioneered the ‘zero-zero’ ejection seat that ensures the safe extraction and landing of the entire crew from zero airspeed and zero altitude. Finding an alternative without compromise is an arduous task that HAL must do to ensure the finalisation of the order from Argentina.
“HAL is currently in talks with NPP Zvezda, a Russian manufacturer of ejection seats. Their K-36 ejection seat is a competitor to Martin Baker. In fact, NPP Zvezda was close to clinching the contract for even the American fighter F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter. Currently, the K-36 sports various variants used in Russian fighters, such as the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-30 and Su-57. K-36 is also a zero-zero ejection seat at par with Martin Baker,” he adds.