The Indian Air Force (IAF), once an ardent backer of the proposed Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), has for the last two years sharply attacked the project. Critics say the FGFA is on the back burner to clear the way for the French Rafale fighter.
President Francois Hollande of France, who arrives in Delhi on Monday, has talked up the sale of 36 Rafales to India for an estimated $9 billion (Rs 60,000 crore).
Yet the FGFA remains alive. Last month Indian and Russian negotiators achieved a major breakthrough, agreeing to develop the FGFA at a lowered cost of $4 billion (Rs 27,000 crore) in India. That would open the doors to building of 250 FGFAs to replace the Sukhoi-30MKI.
Sukhoi is already test-flying the FGFA’s precursor, which Russia calls the PAK-FA. The FGFA project involves improving the PAK-FA significantly to meet the IAF’s specifications. The IAF wants some 50 improvements to the PAK-FA, including a 360-degree radar and more powerful engines.
A prototype fighter flying in India within three years. In total, 11 prototypes would be built – eight of these PAK-FAs for the Russian Air Force, and three FGFAs for India.
IAF objections to the FGFA were:
(a) The Russians would not share critical design information with India;
(b) The PAK-FA’s engines are inadequate, being mere upgrades of the Sukhoi-30MKI’s engines; and
(c) Paying $6 billion to co-develop the FGFA would mean that “a large percentage of IAF’s capital budget will be locked up.”
SOURCES – Business Standard