Six countries—USA, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Indonesia and Philippines—have shown interest in the indigenously manufactured light combat aircraft Tejas, even as India has decided to sell 18 of them to Malaysia, the government told Parliament on Friday.

Last October, said Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt in the Lower House, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a defence PSU, had offered 18 Tejas twin-seater variants while responding to a request for proposal (RFP) issued by Royal Malaysian Air Force for fighter lead in trainer–light combat aircraft (FLIT–LCA).

“Other countries which have evinced interest in LCA aircraft are Argentina, Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia and Philippines,” Bhat told Lok Sabha.

On a separate Parliament question, wanting to know from the government whether it proposes to manufacture a stealth fighter jet, the junior defence minister said, “yes” and added that the “autonomous flying wing technology demonstrator” has been successfully tested by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

National security

“Further, the desired information is sensitive in nature and its disclosure is not in the interest of national security,” he pointed out.

The government, the MoS stated, has taken several policy initiatives in the past few years and brought in reforms to encourage indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment in the country, thereby expanding their production.

These initiatives include giving priority to procurement of capital items from domestic sources under Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP)-2020 and announcement of 18 major defence platforms for industry-led design and development. Besides that, a notification was issued for embargo on the import of items mentioned in ‘positive indigenisation lists” beyond the timelines indicated against them. Three such lists of total 310 items of services and two such list of total 2,958 items of the defence PSUs were made public, Bhat stated.

Liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy allowing 74% FDI under automatic route, simplification of ‘make procedure’ and launch of Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme involving start-ups, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) were some of other new initiatives.