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India in talks with Egypt, Argentina for possible supply of Tejas light combat aircraft

Indian Air Force's Tejas aircraft on a sortie during the full dress rehearsal of Aero India 2023, at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. A PTI Photo

BENGALURU (PTI):  Argentina and Egypt have joined a number of other countries in showing interest in procuring the indigenously-developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas from India.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) chairman CB Ananthakrishnan said on the sidelines of Aero India-2023 on Tuesday that India is in talks with both Argentina and Egypt for possible supply of Tejas aircraft.

He said Egypt has a requirement for 20 aircraft while Argentina showed interest in procuring 15 fighter jets.

The US, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are also among the countries showing interest in Tejas aircraft.

Tejas, manufactured by the HAL, is a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.

In February 2021, the defence ministry sealed a Rs 48,000-crore deal with HAL for the procurement of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

Ananthakrishnan said Egypt is also keen to have an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility and that India would like to support the country to facilitate build the aerospace ecosystem.

"Two teams from the Argentine Air Force have visited HAL and flown the LCA," he said.

Malaysia had shown interest in procuring at least 18 Tejas fighter jets to replace its ageing fleet of Russian MiG-29 planes.

In October 2021, the HAL responded to a Request For Proposal (RFP) issued by Malaysia. However, Ananthakrishnan South Korea's FA-50 is now known to have an edge to get the order.

It is learnt that the Egyptian side conveyed its keenness on acquiring the Indian platforms during delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, people familiar with the matter said.

The overall defence ties between India and Egypt have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In July last year, the IAF participated in a month-long tactical leadership programme in Egypt with three Su-30 MKI jets and two C-17 transport aircraft.

In September, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh paid a three-day visit to Egypt. India is keen to expand ties with Egypt, a key player in the politics of both the Arab world as well as Africa.

It is also seen as a major gateway to markets in Africa and Europe.

On LAC Mark II aircraft, Ananthakrishnan said the HAL hopes to roll out the upgraded version of the aircraft in December 2024.

Last year, the government accorded its approval to developing the LCA Mk-2 which will have an array of advanced features.

On Sunday, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane said the government is fully supporting the projects relating to Tejas Mark II and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Inaugurating the Aero India on Monday, Prime Minister said made-in-India platforms like Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and aircraft carrier INS Vikrant are shining examples of India's true potential in the defence manufacturing sector.

In his address, Modi showcased India as an attractive investment destination to produce military hardware and said it is looking at increasing defence exports from USD 1.5 billion to USD five billion by 2024-25.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari flew the combat aircraft during an air show at the Aero India at the inauguration ceremony.

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