NEW DELHI — Indian government officials are expressing concern over the country’s work share in its Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) collaboration with Russia.
“We have a major opportunity in the FGFA program,”(IAF) Deputy Chief Air Marshal S. Sukumar says. However, “at the moment it is not very much in favor of Indian development. We are flagging it through the government. It should be much more focused towards indigenous development capability.”
India’s work share in FGFA research and development and other aspects of the multi-billion dollar project at the moment is only around 15%, even though New Delhi is bearing 50% of the cost. The total program is expected to cost India about 1.5 trillion rupees ($25 billion).
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony is expected to discuss the progress of the FGFA program and the IAF’s concerns with Russian defense authorities during his visit to Moscow on Nov. 15.
“Apart from the cost factor of the FGFA project, the defense minister is expected to take up the issue of India’s share in the project, since it will have an impact on the country’s indigenous capabilities to develop such an advanced fighter aircraft,” a defense ministry official says.
India and Russia signed a preliminary design contract worth $295 million for the FGFA in December 2010, and the design phase of the joint venture program was completed in June. Currently the final design and research and development contracts are under negotiation between the two countries. “These talks are expected to be concluded next year,” Sukumar says.
The final design contract now being negotiated is pegged at $11 billion, with India and Russia sharing $5.5 billion each towards the cost of design, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight-testing. Each fighter is expected to cost over $100 million.
The IAF intends to buy around 300 stealthy FGFAs, made jointly by Russia’s Sukhoi and India’s state-run. (HAL). The fighter should be ready for induction from 2020 onwards.
The aircraft is a derivative project from the Russian single-seat Sukhoi T-50 or PAK FA being developed for the IAF. Currently, four T-50 prototypes have performed more than 200 test flights since January 2010. The Russian air force plans to begin inducting the fighter in 2015.
S. Subrahmanyan, managing director of MiG Complex at HAL, recently expressed confidence that the first jointly designed prototype will be ready in 2015 and the induction of FGFA could begin as early as 2019.
HAL will get three Russian prototypes for re-design and testing in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and will hand over the first series-produced aircraft to the IAF in 2017, Subrahmanyan says.
India had initially pitched for 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat fighters, but the IAF now plans to stick with single-cockpit fighters to reduce costs and protect stealth features.