NEW DELHI — Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Russia on July 7, the Defence Ministry is toning down points of conflict about the joint Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program to reach final agreement with Russia, said an MoD source.

FGFA is proposed to be jointly developed and produced by India and Russia and a preliminary development agreement was signed in 2011 between Russia's United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) and along with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) when India paid its 50fifty percent share of US $250 million toward initial development cost.

However, a final agreement, which will release a payment of about $6 billion as India's share in FGFA development, of the FGFA has yet to be inked because of conflict over the two sides have not been able to resolve issues relating to work share, a firm aircraft order what in production, the firm order will be from the Indian Air Force, IAF) for t he aircraft-its desired mix in terms of single- and double-seat aircraft, and also the changes to be incorporated in the FGFA as demanded by the Indian Air Force.

The Defence Ministry wants to MoD would like to reach an agreement, and will on the FGFA and not insist on the Indian work share at of India in development and production, this stage and will also agree to delivery of single-seater aircraft FGFA as against the earlier demand of two-seaters, FGFA, the source added.

A firm order of 154 FGFAs will also be included in the draft agreement, for the FGFA, the source said.

Defense analysts said that despite the delays, there is no chance that the FGFA project will not be dropped.

"At this juncture, given the unfolding international geopolitics and Russia's fast-depleting defense export order books, it is highly unlikely that Russia would take a

'take-it-or-leave-it' stand. FGFA is a landmark, collaborative, futuristic defense project that would doubtless benefit both countries," said Kapil Kak, a (cq) , retired Indian Air Force air vice marshal and defense analyst, said.

India-Russia FGFA collaboration is mutually benefits to both counties, he said.

"Russia required FGFA for its industry to stay competitive with the Western systems, reduce development cost and guarantee an export customer; India saw it as a means to address the IAF–People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) imbalance and impart a measure of resonance to its combat aircraft development programs."

A Russian diplomat here said India's concern about low work share can be addressed and its workload work share in FGFA project can be increased gradually increased as Indian industry is better able to absorb technology and produce components for the aircraft in the years ahead.

The FGFA is based on the Russian T-50 platform and is already in prototype stage for use by the Russian Air Force and could be inducted in by 2016 or 2017.

IndiaIAF wants about 40 changes to the Russian prototype for Indian side plusand has a preference for a double-seater. as against the single seater for Russian use.

However, the main sticking point has been resolving a dispute over an non agreement on increase in India's work share in the FGFA from the current level of less than 20 percent to 50 percent. The increase in work share in the FGFA would help the Indian aerospace industry get additional orders for the fighter.

"Signing of the contract is mainly based on agreement on work share on research and development. (R& D). While Russians have already taken the lead in this and the Russian prototypes are already flying, there appears to be deadlock on this aspect between HAL and Rosoboronexport on behalf of UAC," said Daljit Singh, a retired Air Force air marshal, said.

"The work share would have to be finalized fast to get the project on track. Delay in this also dilutes the authority of the Indian side to have a say in major design of the aircraft. Final agreement can [be reached]fructify if the contracts between the two agencies are signed," says Daljit Singh said. (cq), retired IAF Air Marshal.

While defense analysts and Air Force IAF officers agree on India's urgent need for the FGFA, they don't want the parameters recommended by the service to be diluted to rush the deal.

"Given that India entered the project after the FGFA design had been frozen and prototypes were flying, any changes would face constraints. But India is going ahead with plans to fit for fitment of indigenous avionics, navigation-communication systems, aero-structures and other components," says Kak said.

Singh says the essential features of the FGFA for both Russia and India IAF will remain the same.

"The basic design of the aircraft is based on stealth, super-cruise and super-maneuverability features, and this would remain as the base design," Singh said. "Therefore aircraft structure and power plant would be the same for both air forces and that would also ensure lower R&D costs. The IAF would be looking at some of its own requirements of sensors, avionics and weapon carriage capability. These issues are required to be finalized and mutually agreed and then the project would move much faster."

However, Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia, retired Indian air marshal, said the service IAF wants a greater share in development and production of the FGFA to give it an indigenous look.

"IAF questions the indigenous development aspect in this skewed ratio. The AL-41 engine, which is supposed to power the FGFA, is not yet developed. AL-31, which powers the Su-30 MK, is not capable of supersonic cruise. Avionics, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, do not have any visibility."

At this stage, does India have any other options?

"This appears to be an academic question at this stage. It is too late in the day for India to explore other options given the extreme complexity and huge costs involved in an FGFA program," Kak said. "The indigenous FGFA, Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft [AMCA], still on the drawing board, is an excellent alternative provided it follows a better trajectory than the delay-ridden indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ( LCA) project. An AMCA success would also signal the arrival of India on the global aerospace industry market as another manufacturer of FGFA aircraft after the US, Russia and China."

Ahluwalia offered gives various options. at this stage for IAF on FGFA.

"Considering the anticipated delay in the project and to avoid any shortfalls in the IAF force levels, the options include: 'A', develop the indigenous AMCA; [Advanced Multi Medium Combat Aircraft]; LCA MK II development would be indicative of capability; consider increased procurement of Rafale or F-35; (JSF); (c) propose to purchase 18 T-50s off the shelf and subsequently assess the probability of success of the FGFA," he said.


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.