But their hopes of manufacturing state-of-the-art warplanes could still be decades away as countries need more time to master the technology, experts said.
“It has been long on ambition short on success,” Richard A. Bitzinger, senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said of the drive.
“These things are being done because of techno-nationalism. They are done because these countries perceive of themselves as rising powers.”
As part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make-in-India” campaign, scientists will showcase the Tejas warplane at an air show opening in Bengaluru on Tuesday. But the jet remains a work in progress, with only three in service with the air force.
South Korea, supported by Indonesia, has multi-billion dollar plans to develop a twin-engined KF-X fighter jet, while Taiwan said this month it plans to build 66 jet trainer aircraft that could eventually help it manufacture a combat plane.
Chang Yeoung-keun, an adviser on the KF-X fighter jet project and a professor at Korea Aerospace University, said full development of the plane and its technologies will take decades.
“South Korea needs to develop core technologies of the jets, not just shells,” he said. “I am skeptical. South Korea may be able to develop core technology in 30 to 40 years, but they have to develop them in 10 years, with current fighter jets aging.”
Cleared by the government in 1983, the Indian plane was meant to be the backbone of the air force due for induction in 1994.
Instead, it suffered years of delay with scientists trying to build the world’s most modern light combat aircraft from scratch, including the engine.
In December, the navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, said the sea version of the plane was “not up to the mark” and it could not take off from an aircraft carrier once weapons were loaded.
A source in the navy said that the plane for years has failed flight tests when taking off from a 200-meter carrier deck with weapons on board. That prompted the navy to issue a request last month for information for a foreign fighter to fill the gap, the first stage in a long procurement process.
Boeing Co. has pitched its F-A/18 Hornet, that the US navy flies from its carriers, to the Indian Defense Ministry, including an offer to build it locally.
Sweden’s Saab AB said on Friday it will offer the naval version of its Gripen fighter to the Indian navy.
India’s top defense scientists said they were disappointed by the navy’s decision and that fighter aircraft development was a challenge everywhere, including with the US Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35.
“Look at the F-35, with all the might of the multinational effort, is still evolving,” said a source in the aeronautical development agency which is spearheading the LCA effort.