NEW DELHI — India is going ahead with the acquisition of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft with Russia after an internal committee of the Ministry of Defence recommended that the purchase of the aircraft will duplicate India’s plan to develop a homegrown advanced medium combat aircraft, according to an MoD official.
“The internal committee, headed by retired Indian Air Force Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, after studying technical parameters, has recommended India to acquire the Indo-Russian FGFA,” the MoD official said, referring to the fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
On the road ahead, the official said, a final agreement between India and Russia will be prepared that will pave the way for the release of over $5 billion toward India’s share to develop the FGFA.
A preliminary development agreement was signed in 2010 between Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, or HAL, when India paid its 50 percent share of $250 million toward initial development cost.
“A firm order of 108 will be put in the final draft of the agreement being prepared,” said an IAF official.
India and Russia have yet to finalize the work share for the production and technology transfer.
“Defence Research and Development Organization has been involved regarding the work share and transfer of technology, whereas the IAF is involved in finalizing the operational requirements and the number of fighters,” said Daljit Singh, retired Indian Air Force air marshal and defense analyst.
“The involvement [of both Russia and India] is huge in the FGFA program, wherein HAL will be doing many systems like flight controls, avionics with inputs of DRDO and other establishments,” said the MoD official.
The level of transfer of technology by the Russians to India has been a sticky point between the two countries.
“Stealth design technology, sensor data fusion, systems integration and modern manufacturing technology would be the good areas for consideration for transfer of technology,” said Singh.
Vijainder Thakur, retired Indian Air Force wing commander and defense analyst, said, “India and Russia would jointly own the intellectual property rights and technology transfer would take place on an as required basis.”
After the final agreement is inked, Russia will supply three prototypes of India-specific FGFA in another three years, the Indian Air Force official said.
However the “The FGFA could take minimum 8 to 10 years before getting inducted,” the Indian Air Force official added.
Russia is already doing very well with its Air Force’s FGFA called PAK-FA, which had its first flight in 2010 and will likely be inducted this year.
“IAF will want FGFA to be powered by the Stage 2 engine as compared to the AL-41F1 Stage 1 engine, which currently powers the PAK-FA, the new engine,” Thakur said. “The India specific FGFA would also feature improved stealth and advanced electronics.”
India opted for the Russian FGFA because “Russia is a better option with the country willing to co-develop on agreed terms apart from comprehensive technology transfer,” the MoD official added.
On other options for an FGFA Singh said, “Looking at other FGFA project would mean very large timelines and long discussions on transfer of technology.”