New Delhi: India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, which was several years in the making, has now caught the attention of foreign buyers with Sri Lanka and Egypt evincing interest in the indigenous built fighter jet.
Sri Lanka had recently rejected Pakistan’s JF-17 aircraft built with Chinese help, while Egypt had last year signed a contract for 24 French-made Rafale fighter jets.
The two countries are interested in the current version of the Tejas and not the upgraded one which will be rolled out later.
However, state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the manufacturer of Tejas, is focusing on delivering the aircraft to the IAF first.
“While there is an interest which has been shown (by other countries), let us get the product first to our own customer. The confidence that will come to others when our own Air Force flies it will be immense. So at first, we should at least meet the initial requirement of the IAF,” HAL chairman T Suvarna Raju told PTI.
Refusing to share information on which are the countries that have evinced interest in Tejas, he expressed confidence in his marketing team and said they are equipped to take forward the talks. However, Defence sources said that the two countries which have evinced interest in Tejas were Sri Lanka and Egypt.
He said the “current version is more than enough” for smaller nations. Two things that go in favour of the Tejas are its lower cost and flying ability.
“We have proved its flying ability and the aircraft, for that class, is a terrific one. We did take some time but we need to remember that DRDO and us did everything from the scratch,” Raju said.
Raju said that the upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore.
Sources said enquiries by foreign countries came during the Bahrain air show in January, the first time that Tejas flew outside the country.