December 22, 2010 2:20:41 am
India and Russia have finally signed a much-awaited contract that will lead to the joint design and development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF),a deal pegged at over $30 billion. The contract,signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedevs visit today,has been described by the Defence Ministry as the biggest Defence programme ever in the history of India.
Significantly,Russia has also agreed to provide high precision,military-grade navigation signals to India from its GLONASS global positioning system. This will be the first time that the Indian military will get access to such technology as it does not have access to military grade signals from the GPS system because India has not signed the CISMOA (Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) with the US.
The contract for preliminary design of the FGFA,signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL),Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi,will involve the development of a next generation fighter with features like advanced stealth,ultra manoeuvrability and high-technology avionics.
While the IAF is expected to induct 250-300 of these new fighters starting 2017-20,the deal is significantly different from previous purchases as the aircraft would also be offered for export to third countries.
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While the first flight of the Russian fifth-generation Sukhoi T 50 PAK FA fighter took place in January this year,the Defence Ministry has said that the Indian variant of the fighter will be different as the specifications of the IAF are much more stringent. The ministry has named the Indian variant of the fighter as the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF).
PMF draws upon the basic structural and system design of the Russian FGFA Technology Demonstrator with modifications to meet IAF specifications which are much more stringent, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
The new stealth fighters will be the only competition to the under-development F 35 fighter and the US F 22 Raptor which is the only fifth-generation fighter in service. While Russia is going ahead with a single-seater variant,the IAF is more keen on a two-seater with a more powerful engine,on the lines of the Su 30 MKI that is in service.
Programme options include the design and development of a twin-seater variant and the integration of an advanced engine with higher thrust at a later stage, the spokesperson said. He added that the fighter would have advanced features including supercruise and internal carriage of weapons.
In the coming months,India and Russia will sign a series of contracts that will cover different aspects of the program,including Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and production details. The total cost including options and the value of production aircraft will make this the biggest Defence programme ever in the history of India involving production of over 200-250 aircraft, the spokesperson said.
The Air Chief had earlier said that deliveries are expected to start by 2017.
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