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,” Indian air force (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 Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (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.