UAE shows interest in Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, desert warfare training with India


NEW DELHI: India and the UAE are planning to expand their joint military training with a focus on improving capabilities to conduct operations in deserts. With this step up in defence cooperation, the UAE has shown interest in the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and several ‘Make in India’ military platforms, government officials said.

These issues were discussed between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and UAE’s Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi Al Falacy, on Tuesday. He has been on an official visit to India from Monday and will return after visiting the facilities of defence PSUs, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), on Wednesday.

The UAE minister will head to Bangalore to visit the HAL facility on Wednesday, where he will be shown the Tejas LCA. The aircraft is designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) with HAL being the principal partner. “The UAE has shown interest in the Tejas,” explained officials.

It is not the first country though. Even Sri Lanka, Egypt and Singapore have evinced interest in the indigenously built fighter jet. But HAL will first have to meet the demands of the Indian Air Force (IAF), before taking on an export order. It is working on meeting the IAF’s demand for 123 Tejas, including 40 which are the baseline version, the Mark 1, and the remaining 83 being the upgraded version, Mark 1A. The IAF is also looking at inducting more than 200 Tejas Mark 2. However, these projects are heavily delayed. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, earlier this month, pointed out that HAL has lagged behind in the deliveries of several frontline fighters such as the Su-30s, Mirages and the LCA by several years.

HAL became the centre of a controversy over the 36-Rafale fighter deal after the Congress alleged that it was overlooked for Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence to meet the offset obligation with Dassault Aviation in a case of crony capitalism. The Congress got more ammunition against the government by reports of French media portal, Mediapart, on the Rafale deal’s offsets.

Meanwhile, after the HAL facility, the UAE minister will visit the IAF’s Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), which conducts flight testing of aircraft, airborne systems and weapon stores, prior to their induction.

During the talks, both sides also expressed interest in conducting joint training in desert areas, according to officials. The two countries currently have joint exercises between their navies and air forces, but not between their armies.

“During their meeting, both the Ministers discussed a range of defence cooperation issues and agreed upon priority areas for cooperation including enhanced military to military exchanges, training, military medicine and defence industry tie ups,” reads a statement issued by the defence ministry.

Officials explained that discussions were also held on creating a committee on enhancing joint ventures between the two countries.


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