According to latest Indian media reports Srilanka and Egypt have expressed interest in acquiring indigenously developed Light Combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter jet from India and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar too has shown his willingness to sell LCA-Tejas to friendly countries but major hurdles to LCA-Tejas export plans may come from Countries who have provided key technology for the fighter jet .
Supplying LCA-Tejas to Egypt equipped with radar developed with Israel technology inputs and its main armaments like an air-to-air missile being of Israeli origin will certainly see objection from Israel and without Indigenous replacement option , export plans will fall flat .
Since LCA-Tejas is also powered by American supplied GE F404 Combat jet engines , India will need to work with the US authorities on re-export license arrangements and since we all know how American Diplomatic channels work , US authorities will block or stall the sale of LCA-Tejas if it goes against their national interests or hurts its own domestic manufacturers .
Indigenous content in LCA-Tejas still stands at only 55% and India will need to further improve it to 80-85% so that LCA-Tejas exports success does not depend on foreign component suppliers . If India is dead serious on exporting to LCA-Tejas to friendly countries than India needs to start working on Kaveri engine successor and develop a new engine to power LCA-Tejas and also work on completing Astra BVRAAM development which can be offered as alternative to Israeli weapons and India should also be open to Integrate customers choice of weapons systems if requested by exporting countries .
Market for Light class fighter jet is quite big and it is estimated that the world will see demand for 400-500 light class fighter jets in next decade to come when older F-5s and Mig series fighter jets will come up for replacement by their respected air force around the world and to India’s advantage united states and Russia no longer are producing light low-cost fighter jets anymore which will clearly leave a void among smaller air force who cannot afford to buy bigger medium and heavy class fighters and are scouting for cheaper and lighter class fighter jets .
Export failure of Chinese developed low-cost JF-17 fighter jet should be a lesson to Indian authorities who should market LCA-Tejas as an Advance light class fighter rather than has low-cost light fighter jets which come with a cheaper price tag . LCA-Tejas should be marketed with the right blend of advanced technology which not only provides affordability and reliability but can also compete with aircraft in a higher class .
With Gripen E offered at 85$ Million per aircraft , and JF-17 placed somewhere nearly 25-30$ million a piece , India can certainly place LCA-Tejas somewhere in between as a aircraft which is clearly superior to JF-17s and also as a aircraft which is as much capable as Gripen-E can work to India’s advantage .
Indian government needs to streamline LCA-Tejas suppliers chain so that it can compete in International tenders and Government also needs to work on its own policies to provide financial and soft loan options to the buyer which are a norm in weapons Industry .
LCA-Tejas international debut at Bahrain airshow and fresh orders placed by India air force for LCA-Tejas has recreated a positive impression for the long-delayed program which continually hogged bad media limelight with many prospective customers and Government along with various agencies needs to create special LCA-Tejas demonstration team which should be sent to various Airshows and Defence exhibitions around the world to engage with prospective customers and visiting dignitaries especially from high ranked air force officials should be provided special demonstration and air sorties on LCA-Tejas trainers which Industrial norm .
LCA-Tejas is yet to be tested by pilots from prospective customers and possession of LCA-Tejas trainer variant can work to India’s advantage and should be part of International demo team allowing prospective customer sorties to showcase capabilities of LCA-Tejas .