January 22, 2015

India Fast Tracks 5th Generation Fighter Jet Project With Russia

India and Russia on Wednesday agreed to speed up work and iron out hurdles that are holding up the co-production and co-designing of a 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft.

The two nations had in 2012 agreed to jointly design and produce the next generation fighters. Both countries are scheduled to spend US $5.5 billion each towards the cost of designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing. But the UPA Government had failed to operationalise the project.
The decision to fast-track the programme was done in a bilateral meeting between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, at the 14th Meeting of the Indian-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, which took place in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting in New Delhi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "We have decided to fast-track many of the issues."

However, the 5th generation fighter being built for the Russian Air Force is already being flight tested in Russia and India has suggested that a fresh Research and Development (R&D) contract would be a waste of time and resources.

Russia has already built five-prototypes in single pilot version. The Indian version is a two-seater, which will acomodate one pilot and a co-pilot who will function as a Weapon Systems Operator (WSO).

Mr Parrikar has also told Russia that India wants the stealth fighter jet to be inducted into the Indian Air Force much before 2024-25 - the date that was fixed for delivery. India plans to build as many as 127 fighters at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited facility in Nashik. The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project is estimated to cost $25 billion.

Besides, the two sides have agreed that India will now exchange all information about flight safety protocols being followed on Russian platforms - fighter jets, helicopters and the transport planes - flown by the Indian Air Force.

This information exchange is crucial given the series of accidents in the Indian Air Force, including engine problems in India's mainstay fighter, the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI. Russia had also earlier contested India's claim that the pilot seats of the Su-30 ejected automatically during the last crash in October last year.


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