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India’s ambitious Tejas MkII program is set to advance into the developmental testing phase starting in 2025. With committed orders for 120 units and potential procurement of over 80 more units in the future, the program gained momentum following the clearance of CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) approval last year. The Tejas MkII, an advanced variant of the indigenous Tejas fighter jet, promises to elevate India’s aerospace capabilities to new heights.

Prabhulla Chandran VK, the director of avionics and weapons systems at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), recently revealed that ADA is exploring the development of a Trainer variant of the Tejas MkII. Interestingly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has not placed any such requirement for a trainer version. The move to consider a Trainer variant stems from the intention to make the Tejas MkII more appealing in the international export market.

To enhance its market attractiveness, the possibility of developing a Trainer variant might be explored in the later stages of the program. Likely, one of the four prototypes to be developed for the Tejas MkII program could be adapted into a Trainer variant. This strategic move aligns with the growing interest ADA has received from approximately 16 countries regarding the Tejas MkII.

The Tejas MkII, belonging to the Medium Class category of fighters, is expected to have a higher potential for exports compared to the Tejas Mk1A, which falls under the Light-weight class of fighters, a market that has been shrinking in recent times.

Given the future demand for the Tejas MkII, the program will require a conversion trainer aircraft to train pilots at the squadron levels. For this purpose, the Indian Air Force might consider HAL’s proposed Hindustan Lead-in Fighter Trainer (HLFT-42) to be used as a Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) platform for training pilots on the Tejas MkII or the upcoming AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) fighter jets.

Despite this, export customers might prefer a Twin-seater conversion trainer aircraft based on the same Tejas MkII platform rather than opting for a different LIFT platform. This approach would ensure uniformity and familiarity for pilots transitioning from the trainer variant to the combat version, making it an attractive option for international buyers.

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