India’s New Fighter Jet Will Make International Debut in Bahrain


India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will conduct a flight demonstration during this year’s Bahrain International Air Show held from January 21-23, The Business Standard reports based on information obtained from India’s Ministry of Defense.

“The show will witness flying demonstration of the ‘Tejas’, the latest and state of the art Light Combat Aircraft, the ‘Four-plus’ generation and highly cost effective fighter aircraft,” a defense ministry spokesperson said on January 1.

The display and flight demonstration of the Tejas fighter jet can be interpreted as a direct response to Pakistan’s attempt to sell its jointly-developed Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft on the international arms market.

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However, whereas Pakistan has already inducted the JF-17 into the Pakistan Air Force, only one fighter aircraft has been delivered to the Indian Air Force so far. “A fighter participating in an international air show is scrutinized like a Miss Universe contestant. Every mole of the Tejas will be scrutinized in Bahrain,” cautions an Indian military aviation expert interviewed by The Business Standard.

The Tejas LCA, developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency in cooperation with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), only achieved initial operational clearance in December 2013.

As I reported previously, the supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multirole light fighter aircraft has been under development for the past three decades. The date for final operational clearance was originally December 2015. However, this date has been postponed to March 2016.

New Delhi has recently offered its Tejas supersonic jet fighter to the Sri Lanka Air Force, in an attempt to outdo Islamabad, which had offered its JF-17 fighter jet to Colombo last year (See: “Outwitting Pakistan: India Offers Sri Lanka Its Newest Fighter Jet”).

Adding to the pressure, China and Pakistan may already have their first international customer, with a deal purportedly signed during last year’s Dubai Air Show with an unidentified Asian country (See: “Groundhog Day: China-Pakistan JF-17 Has its First Buyer”). Yet it remains unknown whether in fact the contract was signed and how many aircraft were sold.

To make matters worse, a May 2015 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India — the Indian government’s principal oversight body — points to a number of shortfalls in the Mark-I version of the Tejas LCA, including inadequate electronic warfare capabilities, problems with the onboard radar system, and reduced internal-fuel capacity.

The Indian Air Force also abandoned plans to develop an upgraded Mark-II Tejas LCA and instead will field an improved Mark-I Tejas LCA — dubbed Tejas Mark-IA — in which the technical problems of the Mark-I version outlined in the May 2015 government report will be addressed. The first 20 Tejas LCA are slated for induction in 2017 or early 2018.

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