India’s indigenously produced light combat aircraft (LCA) fighter jet Tejas will display its flying prowess for the first time at the Singapore Airshow 2022 but the bigger picture might be to impress Malaysian delegations that will be visiting its neighboring country as Malaysia plans to decide the winner of Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) tender for one squadron (18 planes) to be valued at around RM4 billion.

Six companies are understood to have submitted bids to supply 18 light combat aircraft (LCA) to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). Interested bidders are understood to be Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) offering the FA 50 jet fighter; Turkey Aerospace Industries, offering its Hürjet; China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp (Catic), with its L-15 fighter jet; Italy’s Leonardo, with its M-346 planes; India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, with its Tejas fighter, Rosoboronexport offering MIG 35 planes, Pakistan’s it’s JF-17.

The winning bidder according to RMAF could be announced as early as late March to early April this year. While JF-17 was in pole position due to close Islamic ties between Pakistan and Malaysia but it dented when China carryout air space violation of Malaysian air space. Chinese eager to crack the deal have offered a massive discount on the JF-17 but HAL has offered to trade in a barter system for Palm oil making it an attractive deal for Malaysia.

The last-minute entry of Turkey with its proposed supersonic trainer aircraft seems to have shaken up things in RMAF as again close Islamic ties between both countries are in limelight but Hürjet is still on the drawing boards and will take to air only in 2023 and might take 3 years before it can enter mass production which means if selected it won’t be ready to serve in RMAF any later then 2026-27.

LCA-Tejas, JF-17, and Hürjet seem to be the top three contenders in the race to provide jets to the RMAF with each having geopolitical advantages and strategic decision making that will take place before a winner is announced.

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