India is the top contender for Malaysia’s order of 18 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) given Indian LCA Tejas low acquisition cost and high technical ratings. The offered package deal also includes maintenance and spares for the nation’s Russian-origin Sukhoi 30 fighter jets. India’s offer to keep Malaysia’s Sukhois flight-worthy is backed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL’s) vast inventory of spares and technical expertise.
South Korea and China are also in the fray for the contact but they do not have backend contracts with Russian manufacturers to work on Sukhoi fighters. Malaysia operates 19 Su 30 MKM fighters which are very similar to Su-30 MKI version that India operates. The discussions on the dual package have taken place and a final decision is likely under the government-to-government route.
Several nations that have Russian weaponry are finding it increasingly difficult to order spares and other supplies for legacy military equipment. The LCA offered by India to Malaysia also includes a modern AESA radar, new avionics and capability to integrate a variety of air to air to ground weapons.
Indian Air Force and Navy have also placed an order for Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missiles. Teams of Malaysia have visited India to discuss the LCA offer and the Indian side has offered to set up an overhaul facility for the LCA fleet in Malaysia to ensure better service.
The India LCA comes with a price tag of $42 million; the low cost has been ensured by economies of scale after the Indian Air Force placed an order for 83 such jets under the Make in India initiative.