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HAL to evade British Embargo in pursuit of LCA Tejas deal with Argentina

Source : Republic

HAL to evade British Embargo in pursuit of LCA Tejas deal with Argentina

HAL to evade British Embargo in pursuit of LCA Tejas deal with Argentina

India is pursuing an ambitious deal to supply its Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ to Argentina, marking a significant stride in defence diplomacy. To circumvent the British embargo on arms sales to Argentina, India plans to replace the Martin Baker ejection seats in the Tejas fighter jet with Russian-designed K-36 seats, an innovative solution that could pave the way for the deal’s success.

In a strategic move, Dinesh Bhatia, the Indian Ambassador to Argentina, held discussions with Brigadier General Xavier Isaac, Chief of the Argentinian Air Force, on August 30. The talks centred on amplifying bilateral engagement, with a primary focus on Argentina’s potential acquisition of Tejas combat aircraft and helicopters manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

K-36 Seats: A Russian Solution

To address the British embargo issue, India has proposed the use of Zvezda K-36 ejection seats, commonly found in MiG series and Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets. These seats have a storied history, with the basic version designed in the late 1960s for the MiG-25 Foxbat aircraft, known for its Mach 3 speed and stratospheric missions. A HAL official confirmed that work has already commenced on replacing the British components, a critical step in ensuring the success of the Tejas deal.

K 36DM ejection seat 1
Russian K-36 Ejection Seat (Wikimedia Commons)

However, the hurdles posed by British embargoes have been a persistent issue for Argentina’s fighter jet acquisition plans. Notably, Argentina requested the replacement of 16 British components in the Tejas during Defense Minister Jorge Taiana’s visit to India in July 2023. This move came in response to the British embargo, which traces back to the Falkland Wars.

Notably, Britain’s embargo strategy has not been limited to Argentina; it influenced Spain to abandon a deal to supply surplus Mirage F1M fighters to its neighbour. The decision to use Russian K-36 seats in the Tejas stems from their availability through HAL, which manufactures the Sukhoi SU-30 MKI under licensed production. This choice allows India to maintain its commitment to the Tejas deal without compromising on safety standards.

Ejection Seat Giants: Martin Baker vs. K-36

Martin-Baker, a private British company, is a global leader in ejection seat manufacturing. Their seats are widely used, with over 17,000 Martin-Baker ejection seats in service across 84 countries. They have saved 7699 lives and dominate 75 per cent of the Western world market.Β In contrast, the Russian K-36 seats have gained prominence as competitors to Martin Baker. These seats are employed in Russian combat jets like the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-30, and Su-57. Known as ‘zero-zero’ seats, they enable safe ejection at zero airspeed and altitude, making them on par with Martin Baker seats.

eject16e 2
Martin Baker MK16 – US16E Ejection Seat

The K-36 ejection seat concept, pioneering ‘zero-zero’ technology, ensures pilots’ safe extraction even in challenging conditions, a feature appreciated by multiple air forces globally.Β India’s innovative approach to resolving the ejection seat challenge reflects the nation’s determination to see the Tejas deal through and strengthen defence ties with Argentina. This development highlights the significance of strategic partnerships in the ever-evolving world of defence diplomacy.

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