TEJAS SP-25 rolling out from the hanger before its maiden test flight

NEW DELHI — Indian authorities have announced that the first prototype of the TEJAS MK-1A, which is actually the planned mass-production version of the TEJAS and the basis for all others, has secretly made its maiden flight. The Indian Ministry of Defence reported that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] conducted the test flight in an area near their production facility reports an international internet defence platform.

HAL first upgraded the aircraft with serial production number SP-25 to MK-1A level which was at the level of TEJAS MK-1. The SP-25 will act as a test platform for the entire production line of the MK-1A version and will undergo certification tests over the next 30 months.

After completion of tests, deliveries of the TEJAS MK-1A will begin from March 2024. The delivery of 83 aircraft ordered for the Indian Air Force is scheduled to be completed in 2029.

TEJAS MK-1A is the best-developed version of TEJAS MK-1 which reached full operational capability [FOC] in 2020. MK-1A is equipped with Israeli Elta EL/M-2052 AESA radar or Indian Uttam AESA radar, a self-defence system, radar receiver warning, and an external muting unit. The MK-1A will have a lower weight compared to the MK-1. One of the most important changes made compared to the MK-1 is that the Indian-made Astra 1 and Astra-2 Beyond Visual Range Air-Air Missiles [AAM] will be used in the MK-1A. Currently, only MK-1 FOCs can fire Derby Oversight Air-Air Missiles.

The Export Potential of TEJAS

India bought single-engine TEJAS fighter jets totalling $4,5B

India takes major steps in exporting TEJAS aircraft. India’s largest export customer is expected to be Egypt. According to Indian sources, India has recently submitted a proposal to Egypt to open a mass production facility for Dhruv and LCH helicopters in Egypt, along with TEJAS MK-1A aircraft.

In line with this offer, the Egyptian authorities are expected to visit HAL’s facilities soon. Egyptian authorities announced plans to purchase 70 TEJAS MK-1A aircraft at the 2021 Dubai Air Show.

The TEJAS is also competing with the TAI-developed HURJET [Turkey] in the Malaysian LIFT/LCA tender. India, which is offering TEJAS MK-1A aircraft to Malaysia, allows Malaysia only “depot-level support”. However, Malaysia wants the 18 light attack aircraft to be manufactured with at least 30% Malaysian parts.

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