The negotiations between India and Russia on stalled projects of jointly developing of a futuristic fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and upgrading the existing Su-30MKI jets into Super Sukhois with advanced avionics and weapons are finally moving forward, the TASS news agency reported on Monday, citing The Times of India newspaper.
According to the article in the newspaper with reference to the Indian Defense Ministry, India is ready for the sides’ equal contribution to the project worth $4 billion at the stage of development work.
As it is known, India and France are going to make the €7.8 billion deal for 36 Rafale jets. However, the Indian Defense Ministry admitted that just 36 jets will not be enough for a stabilization of the country’s air combat power. The Indian Air Forces need at least 42 fighter squadrons to counter the collusive China-Pakistan threat, while now India has just 33 fighter squadrons, including 11 obsolete MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons slated for retirement.
The “multi-pronged strategy” to progressively crank up airpower ranges from inducting the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft to exploring a second line of fighter production in the country, with the American FA-18 and F-16 as well as Swedish Gripen-E already in contention for this proposed “Make in India” project, the TASS news agency writes, citing the article in The Times of India.
In addition to these 4th-generation fighters, the Indian Defense Ministry is now working towards signing the final R&D contract with Russia for the Sukhoi T-50 or PAK-FA, a variant of the Russian single-seat FGFA. “Apart from resolving technical and cost issues, Russia has also agreed to allow the Indian Air Forces test pilots to fly its prototypes now,” an unnamed source of The Times of India said. Russia and India signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2007, a $295 million preliminary design contract was inked in 2010. However, the final R&D contract for the FGFA was on hold till now. According to the main design contract, that should be executed in over six years now, the two countries will invest around $4 billion each for prototype development, testing and infrastructure build-up. The overall cost for producing 127 of these single-seat fighters in India will be about $25 billion.
At the same time, the Indian Defense Ministry is also trying to ensure “maximum operationally availability” of the existing fighters. For example, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that serviceability of Sukhois has rose to 60% now from an alarming 46% earlier.
“The aim is to achieve 75% serviceability. This has been done with an active tripartite dialogue among Russia, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and IAF to ensure better availability of spares and maintenance for the Sukhois,” the source of the newspaper said. “The technical requirements should be finalized this year, with the contract being inked next year.”
The Russian PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation or T-50) jet is a base for the fifth-generation fighter aircraft. The PAK FA has been changed in accordance with the Indian side’s technical requirements. The requests of India have included the wish to receive a two-seater version with an integrated advanced engine with increased thrust.