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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Can’t keep waiting for stealth fighter, India tells Russia
The Indian “perspective multirole fighter” is to be based on the under development Russian FGFA called PAK-FA or Sukhoi T-50 (above), which undertook its first flight-test in January 2010, but will be tweaked to IAF’s requirements. (Getty Images photo)
Ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit here early next month, India has told Russia to come back with a plan to substantially reduce the delivery timeframe for the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) if it wants to seal the futuristic project by next year.
The plan till now was that India would begin inducting the stealth fighters only 94 months — at the earliest — after the two countries inked the final design and R&D contract, which itself has already been delayed by over two years by now.
"Russia has now been told that India cannot wait for a decade to get the FGFA. The delivery schedules should be compressed instead of IAF waiting for the FGFA till 2024-2025. The Russians will probably respond during Putin's visit," a defence ministry source said on Monday.
As was first reported by TOI, India is already upset with Russia for not giving its experts "full technological access" to the FGFA project despite being an equal funding partner. The final design contract, which is yet to be inked after missing the mid-2012 deadline, envisages the two countries chipping in with $5.5 billion each towards designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing.
With the 127 single-seat FGFA that IAF wants costing extra, India will spend around $25 billion on the entire project. India had already spent $295 million on it after inking the preliminary design contract with Russia in December 2010.
The Indian "perspective multirole fighter" is to be based on the under development Russian FGFA called PAK-FA or Sukhoi T-50, which undertook its first flight-test in January 2010, but will be tweaked to IAF's requirements.
The delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya by Russia to India was delayed by several years.
As per the initial plan, with Indian scientists and experts also being based in Russia, the Ozar facility of Hindustan Aeronautics in Nashik was to get three FGFA prototypes in 2014, 2017 and 2019 for test-flying by IAF pilots. The final production was to begin only around 2022. All these timelines, of course, have gone awry with the final design contract yet to be sealed.
With IAF down to just 34 fighter squadrons, when at least 44 are required, alarm bells have finally begun to clang loudly in the Indian defence establishment over the long delays in all its three fighter induction projects.
The indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, first approved in 1983, for instance, will get final operational clearance only by mid-2015. But IAF will get what it actually wants, the four Tejas Mark-II squadrons, from 2022 onwards.
Vladimir Putin, who was the Russian prime minister then, walks near a new Russian fighter jet Sukhoi T-50, after its flight in Zhukovksy, outside Moscow on June 17, 2010. (Getty Images photo)
Negotiations for the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multirole combat aircraft) project for 126 Rafale fighters, too, are stuck with France yet to accept full responsibility for the 108 of the jets to be produced in India. "MoD wants at least two of the three projects (FGFA, LCA and MMRCA) to be speeded up," said a source.