South Asia

India’s Tejas fighter jet crashes in Rajasthan; pilot ejects safely

An Indian Air Force domestically produced Tejas fighter jet crashed for the first time on Tuesday in the western state of Rajasthan, marking its first accident since being commissioned nearly eight years ago. The pilot ejected safely, according to an Air Force statement.

The crash of the light combat jet, named Tejas — Sanskrit for “flame” or “brilliance” — ends its impeccable safety record since its first test flight over two decades ago, an air force officer said as quoted by Reuters.

Introduced into service in 2016, the Tejas was part of India’s long-term initiative to modernize its aging Soviet-era fleet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has emphasized local manufacturing to reduce India’s dependency on defence imports, positioning the country among the world’s largest defence equipment buyers.

In 2021, Modi announced objectives to increase the annual value of defence exports to $5 billion by 2025, up from figures reported in 2023. The government has been actively pursuing diplomatic channels to export the Tejas, granting a $6 billion contract to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 Tejas aircraft.

Despite its achievements, the Tejas has encountered various design and technical hurdles and was previously deemed unsuitable by the Indian Navy for being excessively heavy.