Amidst the ongoing political uncertainties in Malaysia, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL)’s Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ deal with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) hangs in limbo.
Political Situation in Malaysia
Based on the information in public domain, the Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has dissolved the Parliament following the tabling of their budget. Owing to this turmoil, the stocks crashed in the domestic market while the currency weakened.
Partner to Provider: The HAL Pitch
When the RMAF embarked on a journey to procure combat aircraft, it was looking at a wide range of fighter jets globally – these included Chinese JF 17 to the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The fierce competition for the Tejas was posed by the South Korean FA 50.
Also Read: HAL set to edge out South Korea for LCA deal with Malaysia
The Malaysian woes were bigger than an ageing fleet of F-18s and MiG 29s. In the wake of the sanctions on Russia, following the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, the Malaysian fleet of Russian helicopters had to be grounded. The Russian fleets have been due for maintenance which the war and the US led sanctions prohibit.
HAL positioned itself as a long-term, broader defence partner for Malaysia. In addition to the LCA Tejas, the state-owned company agreed to provide Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities for the RMAF. HAL also opened its first overseas office in Malaysia.
Also Read: New HAL office in Malaysia, LCA deal to be announced soon
The Korean Catch
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst, says, “On paper, the LCA Tejas wipes out the FA 50. The LCA Tejas has more hard points, greater payload capacity, greater service ceiling, greater speed and more advanced electronics suite.”
“From a design perspective, Tejas is a combat aircraft meant for asserting air superiority, head on. It has incorporated a delta wing design for greater manoeuvrability. The FA 50 is a weaponised cousin of the T 50 trainer which will be mated with missiles after the fact,” he explains.
Both Malaysia and India have a commonality in their approach to Russia and the West, and have tried to balance the two sides and hence, have a mixed representation of the two in its defence forces. LCA Tejas enshrines the same principles that allow the RMAF to choose which country’s missiles should arm the LCA.
The stakes are overwhelming in HAL’s favour, however diplomatic channels have cited the Malaysian Chief of Air Force General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Mohd Asghar Khan Goriman Khan as leaning towards South Korea.
Based on reports in the public domain the deal is set to go to the South Korean manufacturer, KAI (Korean Aircraft Industry), it is costlier than the Tejas. KAI, reports indicate, is now evaluating the offer to match the price quoted by HAL for the LCA Tejas.
However, “it will be immature to count out Tejas at this stage,” says the Aerospace & Defence Analyst. Adding, “HAL has been bullish on striking a deal with the RMAF and it has pulled various tactics that become mutually beneficial. This is a testament to HAL’s unique capability to not only offer a wide gamut of products and services but also position itself as a defence partner with credible, long term solutions.”
Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online in Gandhinagar that a delegation from Malaysia is expected at the DefExpo 2022.