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November 6, 2014

India’s quest for advanced stealth fighter yet to emerge from doldrums

India is not likely to get a futuristic stealth fighter anytime before 2024-2025. Technical and price wrangles continue to bedevil the joint project with Russia to develop the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

India, in fact, has conveyed its deep concerns to Russia about being denied "full access" to the FGFA project despite the fact that it is supposed to be an equal partner in financing it. The "continuing problems" in the project has meant India and Russia are still to ink the full final design or R&D phase contract for the FGFA, throwing revised timelines into yet another tailspin.
Earlier this year, officials were also shocked to find that India's work-share in the FGFA project had been reduced to just 13% from the earlier envisaged one of 50%. "Russia is yet to clear our lingering technical doubts about the project. But with President Vladimir Putin coming to India in December, there might finally be some forward movement," said a source.

India and Russia had inked the $295 million preliminary design contract in December 2010, as per which the under-development Russian 5th Gen fighter called Sukhoi T-50 would be tweaked to Indian requirements for its "perspective multi-role fighter".

But the final R&D contract, which was to be signed by 2012, is still to be finalized. Under it, India and Russia are supposed to chip in with $5.5 billion each towards the cost of designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing, as earlier reported by TOI
All the 127 single-seat fighters that India hopes to induct are to be built at the Ozar facility of Hindustan Aeronautics in Nashik. In fact, the first Indian FGFA prototype was earlier slated to reach Ozar by 2014, with the second and third following in 2017 and 2019.
"But this obviously cannot happen now. The project's full R&D phase will also be pushed back to 2021-2022, only after which HAL will begin manufacturing the fighters," said the source. India has repeatedly rebuffed overtures made by the US for joining its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) or the F-35 'Lightning-II' programme. Now, having sunk in a lot of time and money into the FGFA project with Russia, it has no option but to pursue it. But it has reduced the required numbers from an earlier 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat 5th Gen fighters to just 127 single-seat ones. It was felt that the twin-seat option would reduce the stealth features and add weight as well as make the fighter much more expensive.

timesofindia

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