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Russian Yak-130 combat trainer will be pitted against the Indian LCA Tejas fighter jet for the Malaysian fighter replacement program as both have been invited to display their skills at the upcoming Langkawi International Exhibition (LIMA-2019) later this month.
This is perhaps the first time when India’s ‘all weather friend,’ in defence procurement, Russia will be competing with New Delhi for an international sales opportunity.
Both Russia and India will be sending their fighters to participate in the static and flying displays where Malaysian Air Force officers are expected evaluate the aircraft as part of initiatial steps in the procurement process. Also in the fray are the Chinese-Pakistan JF-17 Thunder and the South Korean FA-50 but it is not known if the latter two have confirmed their participation in the LIMA program.
India, whose air force has placed an order for over 100 LCA Tejas jets is keen to sell it abroad. The aircraft has won admiration from international experts for its flight characteristics. Barring the engine sourced from GE, the LCA is a wholly indigenous project. The Indian jet is ahead of the Russian aircraft in some ways- its AESA radar is under advanced development, its comes with a variety of weapons including the Brahmos NG Cruise missile and air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.
It is reliably learnt that future JF-17 presentations in international air shows will happen when the Block-III version of the jet, under development in China will be completed in 1-2 years’ time. The makers of the JF-17 are hoping to make that version a competitor to the F-16V, the later and most advanced version of the F-16.
The LCA Tejas may be competitively priced as against the Yak-130 and Malaysia may not run the risk of US sanctions if its buys the Indian jet. However, India might still need US approval to sell its jet equipped with the American-made GE-404 engine.