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The Philippine Aerospace Development Corp (PADC) and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are currently engaged in discussions aimed at enhancing the maritime defence capabilities of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) through the development of a customized version of the LCA-Tejas Mk1A aircraft. This initiative underscores the growing importance of naval aviation in safeguarding territorial waters and addressing regional security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

The LCA-Tejas Mk1A, a versatile multi-role fighter aircraft, is being considered for adaptation to the naval strike mission, specifically tailored to meet the operational requirements of the Philippine Air Force in countering maritime threats. While the Indian Air Force (IAF) has no immediate plans to deploy the LCA-Tejas Mk1A for naval strike missions, the aircraft’s potential for maritime operations are being explored through collaboration between PADC and HAL.

One of the key enhancements under consideration is the integration of the Naval Anti-Ship Missile–Medium Range (NASM–MR), developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), into the LCA-Tejas Mk1A’s arsenal. This anti-ship missile system will significantly augment the aircraft’s maritime strike capabilities, enabling precision targeting of naval assets and enhancing maritime domain awareness.

In addition to the NASM–MR, DRDO’s plans to integrate the BrahMos-NG Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) further bolster the LCA-Tejas Mk1A’s versatility as a naval asset. The BrahMos-NG ALCM’s dual-use capability for land attacks and anti-ship operations provides the Philippines with a potent deterrent against potential maritime threats, including incursions by the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea.

HAL’s proposed customization of the LCA-Tejas Mk1A for naval operations includes optimization for the maritime environment, with enhancements to the radar system designed to improve the detection and tracking of sea-based targets. This tailored approach ensures that the aircraft is well-suited to the unique challenges of maritime warfare, including anti-surface and anti-ship operations.

The decision to explore the LCA-Tejas Mk1A for naval roles comes at a critical juncture for the Philippines, which faces increasing assertiveness from regional powers in the contested waters of the South China Sea. The limitations of existing platforms, such as the South Korean FA-50PH Light Attack Aircraft, underscore the need for more capable and adaptable maritime assets to safeguard Philippine interests and territorial integrity.

By leveraging the technological expertise and operational experience of India’s aerospace industry, the Philippines seeks to strengthen its maritime defence capabilities and bolster its ability to respond effectively to evolving security threats in the maritime domain. The collaboration between PADC and HAL represents a strategic partnership aimed at enhancing regional stability and promoting collective security in the Indo-Pacific region.

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