In a strong reality check on the status of Indias fifth generation fighters,Defence Minister A K Antony has indicated that the aircraft is not likely to enter service in this decade,saying it is scheduled to get certified only by 2019.
While both Antony and Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne have said in the past that the fighters will be ready to enter service by 2017,the minister informed Parliament on Monday that series production would start only after the aircraft gets certification.
Antony said the detailed roadmap of the development of the fighters had been carried out with Russia the lead partner in the programme and the aircraft was now scheduled to be certified by 2019,following which series production will start. This means the fighters will not enter service till the early part of the next decade.
This delay will come as a jolt to the Indian Air Force that has been expecting the fighters by 2017-18. In fact,India has not yet gone beyond signing the preliminary design contract of the fighters with Russia. Antony said an agreement on the research and development phase would be signed with Russia this year.
The fighters made their first public appearance at the Moscow Air Show in 2011. Engineers of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited have started work on its Indian version that will have two pilots unlike the Russian fighters.
There is a sense of urgency to develop the aircraft given that China has progressed on the J 20 its indigenous new generation fighters.