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Will Argentina lead demand for India’s Tejas fighter jets in Latin America? 

Argentina is one of the several countries to have evinced interest in indigenously designed, developed and manufactured Light Combat Aircraft Tejas (Image courtesy: Indian Air Force)

India’s Tejas continues to remain in contention for Argentina’s order of 12 fighter jets amid a crowded field that also includes JF 17—a joint venture of China and Pakistan, South Korea’s FA-50 and Russia’s MiG-35.   

India’s state-of-the-art modern fourth-generation fighter aircraft was high on the agenda when the External Affairs Minister met Argentina’s Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and Secretary for Strategic Affairs Mercedes Marco del Pont in the Argentine capital on Friday.

“EAM, acknowledging Argentine interest in the Made in India Tejas fighter aircrafts for Argentine Air Force, highlighted the importance of the proposal in enhancing strategic quotient of bilateral relationship,” said the joint statement following the Joint Commission Meeting between both the countries.

External Affairs Minister of India S Jaishankar with Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Santiago Cafiero, Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and Secretary for Strategic Affairs Mercedes Marco del Pont in Buenos Aires on Friday. Also seen is Dinesh Bhatia, Ambassador of India to Argentina (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

India is offering a modified variant of the LCA Tejas Mk1A, a light fighter developed in the country.

According to the website airdatanews.com, India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has proposed to about 50 components of the plane including the replacement of the ejection seat provided by Martin Baker to steer clear of a UK veto.

The Tejas would also receive an in-flight refuelling rig and a new nose cone, the website claims. HAL intends to send its proposal to the Argentine government in November, which includes the involvement of companies in the country in assembling the jets.

During Jaishankar’s stay, the two countries also discussed possible partnership in  nuclear energy and space.

India and Argentina have already made a head start in nailing areas of military partnership. In 2019, the two countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) flagging off an intent to explore and work together in the defence sector.

The Argentine Air Force, under its current head Brigadier General Xavier Julian Isaac, has for long been looking to acquire a new fighter.

Isaac was also part of a top-level Argentinian delegation – including Secretary of Research, Industrial Policy and Production for Defence, Daniela Castro – which visited India in March this year with the aim of consolidating bilateral cooperation in the defence industry.

The touring party not only held intense discussions with Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian Air Force chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari but also visited the aircraft, helicopter and engine manufacturing facilities of the Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL) which manufactures Tejas.

Indian Air Force
Brigadier General Xavier Julián Isaac, head of the Argentine Air Force, with Indian Air Force chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari in New Delhi, earlier this year (Image courtesy: Twitter/@MindefArg)

“The result has been very positive. The scheduled agenda was fulfilled and a door was opened for bilateral cooperation in defence matters between Argentina and India under which we define concrete actions for the current year,” Castro said before winding up the visit.

Argentina is one of the several countries to have evinced interest in indigenously designed, developed and manufactured Light Combat Aircraft.

As India continuously grows its capability to manufacture advanced cutting-edge technologies and systems in the defence sector under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, countries like Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, and the Philippines have been eager to know more about Tejas.

In October last year, HAL offered the LCA Tejas twin-seater variant while responding to Request for Proposal (RFP) issued against tender released by Royal Malaysian Air Force for 18 Fighter Lead In Trainer–Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT – LCA).

With the programme acting as a catalyst for transforming the Indian aerospace manufacturing ecosystem into a vibrant Atmanirbhar-self-sustaining ecosystem, the government had approved the procurement of 73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-1 Trainer aircraft from HAL for IAF.

The trials for the LCA Mk-1A variant – which is equipped with critical operational capabilities of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile, Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite and Air to Air Refuelling (AAR) – have reportedly begun last month.

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