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India Pushes Russia For Bigger Slice Of Fighter Program

Nov. 26, 2013 - 11:18AM   |  
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI   |   Comments
The Russian-Indian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft program is based on Sukhoi's T-50 PAK FA.
The Russian-Indian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft program is based on Sukhoi's T-50 PAK FA. (Sukhoi)
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NEW DELHI — India is expressing displeasure with Russia over New Delhi’s low level of participation in the joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), despite being an equal financial partner in the project and placing an order of more than US $30 billion for the new planes.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony told his counterpart in Moscow during a visit this month that India’s share of the work should be 50 percent in development and production of the FGFA, which is still in the prototype stage, MoD sources said.

The MoD’s official news release referred to India’s wish for active involvement in FGFA. “Referring to FGFA and Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) program, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the two projects are significant because they symbolize going past the relationship of buyer-seller, and both sides must give their best at all phases of the execution of these two projects: design, development and production.”

India’s share of the FGFA development is only 15 percent. A diplomat from the Russian Embassy here said India’s share is limited by India’s capabilities in military aircraft research and industrial infrastructure. This level of participation will increase as the FGFA develops, the diplomat said.

India and Russia agreed in 2007 to jointly develop the FGFA for use by both air forces. In December 2010, Rosoboronexport, India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian aircraft-maker Sukhoi signed a preliminary design development contract worth $295 million. The final design, research and joint development contract, estimated to be more than $10 billion, has yet to be signed.

The delay in signing the final research-and-development contract is unlikely to slow down the program, which has four prototypes flying, the Russian diplomat said.

The Indian MoD source, however, said the delay in signing the contract has pushed the project into the next administration after the country’s general elections in early 2014. The source said a new government would honor all international commitments, but much would depend on India’s share of the work.

The Indian Air Force expects to order more than 200 of the twin-engine aircraft, which is based on Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK FA and will incorporate Indian Air Force specifications.

An Air Force official said the FGFA prototype has flown in Siberia this year, but there is very little involvement by the Indian Air Force in design and development. The 30-ton stealthy FGFA would be a swing-role fighter jet with advanced avionics, smart weapons and high-end mission computers.

The Air Force official said the date of entrance of the final version of FGFA has been postponed from 2020 to beyond 2022. The Indians were supposed to receive three variants of the aircraft in 2014, 2017 and 2019, with the final version entering service in 2020.

“India should not miss the opportunity of getting involved in a high-technology project like the FGFA,” said Nitin Mehta, an analyst based here.

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