Colombo: India has offered to Sri Lanka its Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to counter Pakistan’s earlier bid to sell to the island nation its JF-17 fighters developed in collaboration with China, the Colombo-based State-owned Sunday Observer says.
Independent sources confirmed to Express that both Pakistan and India have made their respective offers in the light of the Sri Lanka Air Force’s bid to replace its ageing Israeli Kfirs and MIG 27s.
Websites say that the Pakistani offer of F-17s (a variant of the Chinese FC1-Xiaolong Fierce Dragon) has been there since 2013. Some even say that a squadron has been ordered and would join the SLAF fleet in 2017.
But the SLAF has been stoutly denying any decision on the matter, and that any country, including India, has made an offer. But it is admitted that the air force is looking for replacements.
The Pakistani JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China.
It is deployed for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. First inducted in 2010, the JF-17 is to become the backbone of the PAF, complementing the American F-16 Falcon whose performance it roughly matches.
As for India’s Tejas, it is still in the development stage though some planes of Tejas Mk1 have joined the IAF. Powered by the General Electric F404-GE-IN20 engine, with a limited 80-85 kN thrust that restricts its angle of attack and weapon-carrying capabilities, the LCA Mk 1 failed to meet the IAF’s qualitative requirements (QRs), according to Jane’s Defense Weekly.
But Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd. (HAL) is developing the LCA Mk 1A, which it hopes to make till 2024.
Thereafter, the LCA Mk 2, to be fitted with the more powerful F414 GE-INS6 engine generating 90-98 kN thrust, will go into production to meet the IAF’s projected requirement of 120 to 140 LCAs, Jane’s says.
Colombo’s decision on what to buy and from where will depend on geo-political factors as well technical and financial considerations, Lankan experts say. The decision will also take into account the fact that there is no aerial threat and that the country is heavily indebted and cash strapped.
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