While the other competitors opted to maintain a lower profile, three of India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-made Tejas showed off their capabilities, courtesy of the No. 18 “Flying Bullets” Squadron based in Sulur. Two of the aircraft participated in aerial displays during the air show, which took place Feb. 15-18 at the Changi Exhibition Centre.
Malaysia is seeking 18 jets to replace its fleet of BAE Systems-made Hawk 108 trainers and Hawk 208 light-attack jets, which were introduced in 1994 and have suffered from increasing attrition.
Korean Aerospace Industries is also competing for Malaysia’s Fighter Lead In Trainer-Light Combat Aircraft program, pitching its FA-50 Golden Eagle multirole jet.
The South Korean company’s booth at the air show included models of the FA-50, the KF-21 Boramae fighter, the Surion helicopter and the Light Armed Helicopter. Its KT-1B turboprop trainers were flown by Indonesia’s Jupiter aerobatics team during an aerial display.
The FA-50 and its predecessor, the T-50 trainer, are regional export success stories, with Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand joining South Korea in operating the type. Outside of the region, Iraq operates the Golden Eagle.
A possible sticking point for the FA-50 could be its Israeli-origin Elta Systems ELM-2032 multimode radar, as Malaysia is adamant in refusing to use Israeli systems over the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
However, KAI’s regional manager, Lee Chang Jae, told Defense News that the FA-50 could be fitted with several other radars based on customer requirements, including an active electronically scanned array set under development by Hanwha for the KF-21 Boramae.
Turkish Aerospace Industries, which also hosted a booth at the air show, is proposing its Hurjet aircraft for Malaysia’s FLIT-LCA program. TAI is offering a strategic partnership with Malaysia to build a supersonic jet trainer for the Royal Malaysian Air Force, in which three would be produced in Turkey and 15 made in Malaysia under license, the company’s CEO, Temel Kotil, said during a Feb. 12 television interview.
“Within the scope of [the] FLIT-LCA program, Turkish Aerospace is making [a] 100% offset commitment through localization and technology transfer. After establishing a strong partnership and collaboration with local Malaysian partners, Turkish Aerospace will present a production process plan including [an] aircraft final assembly line in Malaysia,” the company told Defense News.
If it won the competition, TAI said, the first three aircraft would undergo final assembly in Turkey while the company trains Malaysian engineers and technicians.
TAI would also transfer to local partners high-tech aerospace components such as wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and rudders, as well as metallic and composite detail-parts manufacturing, component-level structural assembly, and system integration activities. The firm would also carry out weapon systems integration in Malaysia.
“It would be very useful for the program if the local partner [acquiring] these activities should have prior capabilities and capacity in similar areas,” TAI said.
The other FLIT-LCA contenders who also had booths at the air show were Italian firm Leonardo and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, who are offering the M-346 Master and Hongdu L-15 Falcon, respectively.
Media reports have also said Russia’s Rosoboronexport is offering the MiG-35 for the Malaysian tender.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.
Tayfun Ozberk is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News.