The Indian made Tejas fighter jet is all set for its international airshow debut these days during the Bahrain International Airshow starting Thursday 21 January. The type is engaged in a fierce battle with the Pakistan-made JF-17 Thunder, albeit a virtual one thanks to the virtues of social media. Both sides have battling it out for weeks already.
Two Tejas jets arrived at Bahrain’s Sakhir airbase on 14 January and started orientation flights. The Tejas – powered by a GE F404-IN20 turbofan – was designed and produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) but even after decades of development and testing fails to meet Indian Air Force expectations. An improved ‘Mark 2’ version – featuring the more powerful F414 engine – will probably never see the light of day.
It’s appearance in Bahrain most likely is the result of Pakistan’s recent success in selling it’s JF-17 Thunder abroad. Nigeria is expecting three to be delivered this year and Myanmar is also a rumoured customer. No JF-17 is scheduled to appear in Bahrain, however. Powering the Thunder is the Russian designed Klimov RD-93 engine.
More recently, a Pakistani campaign to sell JF-17 Thunders to Sri Lanka – that other neighbour to India – infuriated New Delhi. After days of confusing news, Indian media proudly reported New Delhi has prevented the deal from happening and also stated the Tejas was now on offer to Sri Lanka.
It is safe to say Sri Lanka would prefer the JF-17 Thunder, a joint undertaking by Pakistan and China that has resulted in a reasonably advanced, capable and affordable alternative to expensive Western and Russian fighter aircraft. It could very likely sell to other customers as well.
Any foreign sale of Tejas jets however is as unlikely as…. well, India buying the JF-17. The program is too troubled for any foreign nation to be interested in. Displaying the aircraft in Bahrain is a matter of politics and prestige, not economics.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured Image: The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (Image © Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)