HAL built trainer during a training sortie

Procurement Blues: Australia may not accept India’s government-to-government (G2G) defence deal offer for the supply of home-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) twin-seat Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft. India had offered to sell 35 TEJAS-LIFT aircraft to Australia through a G2G deal. Sources said that the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, who held talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh on June 22 in New Delhi, informally indicated Australia’s lack of interest in the Indian offer.

According to sources, India had made a formal offer for the TEJAS-LIFT G2G deal during the India-Australia bilateral defence talks in New Delhi on September 10, 2021. India wanted to supply TEJAS-LIFT, which is to be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), for the Royal Australian Air Force.

The deal was reportedly worth over US $1 billion with a unit cost of around $40 million. The Royal Australian Air Force had on June 2, 2021 issued a Request for Information (RFI) for procurement of future LIFT aircraft for replacement of its existing trainers. Boeing of US, BAE Systems of the UK, , Leonardo SpA of Italy, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd of India and Korea Aerospace Industries of South Korea have responded to the RFI.

Boeing has offered its T-7A Red Hawk, BAE Systems has offered its upgraded Hawk, Leonardo has offered M-346 trainers, Korea Aerospace Industries has offered its T-50 advanced jet trainer, while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has offered its TEJAS-LIFT aircraft. HAL’s LIFT aircraft will be utilised for fighter training after the advanced jet training stage and before the induction of pilots into a front-line fighter squadron. On LIFT, trainee pilots will get exposed to new technologies such as Helmet Mounted Display, Beyond Visual Range Missile, an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, in-flight refuelling, etc. HAL Is expected to roll out its first TEJAS-LIFT aircraft in 2025.

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