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Russia fulfills obligations under 5th gentn fighter aircraft programme with India

February 07, 2014, 2:58 UTC+3 NEW DELHI
"Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation under this programme develops as scheduled", Russian Ambassador to India said
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© ITAR-TASS/Marina Lysceva

NEW DELHI, February 07, 2:36 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia fulfills all of its obligations under the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme with India, Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin said at the Defexpo-2014 security systems exhibition on Thursday, February 6.

“We pay no attention to negative publications that appear from time to time and claim that Russia does not fulfill its obligations under the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme. Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation under this programme develops as scheduled, and we have not received any official complaints from the Indian side", he said.

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told ITAR-TASS at the exhibition that all such publications had been written to order.

Commenting on one such article in the Indian newspaper Business Standard, Dzirkaln said it was not true. “There is some speculation regarding the development of the Russian-Indian fifth generation fighter aircraft programme, but it’s not surprising because the Indian Air Force, as the customer, would like to get the ‘hardware’, while budget funding has been disbursed for research and development,” he said.

“We have no official complaints from India with regard to the fifth generation fighter aircraft. All negotiations take place under the agreements reached earlier,” Dzirkaln said.

The newspaper said the Indian Air Force (IAF) had “alleged the Russians would be unable to meet their promises about its performance.” On December 24, 2013, in a meeting in New Delhi chaired by Gokul Chandra Pati, the secretary of defence production, top IAF officials argued the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) had “shortfalls… in terms of performance and other technical features.”

Business Standard reviewed the minutes of that meeting. The IAF's three top objections to the FGFA were: (a) The Russians are reluctant to share critical design information with India; (b) The fighter's current AL-41F1 engines are inadequate, being mere upgrades of the Sukhoi-30MKI’s AL-31 engines; and (c) It is too expensive. With India paying 6 billion U.S. dollars to co-develop the FGFA, “a large percentage of IAF’s capital budget will be locked up.”

Top Defence Ministry sources suspect the IAF is undermining the FGFA to free up finances for buying 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft, the newspaper said.

Fifth-generation fighters are qualitatively superior to current “Generation 4.5” fighters like the Sukhoi-30MKI. They are designed for stealth, which makes these near-invisible to radar; they “supercruise”, that is, fly at supersonic speed without lighting engine afterburners (which some current fighters like the Rafale also do); and they have futuristic avionics and missiles, Business Standard said.

“The Defence Ministry and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) have countered the IAF’s objections to the FGFA. Russian officials have clarified that the current prototype's engine, the AL-41F1, is a temporary solution to let the flight-test programme continue. A new engine being developed in Russia will eventually power both the FGFA and PAK-FA,” the newspaper said.

It stressed that “Russia has gone ahead with developing a fifth-generation fighter. The Sukhoi Design Bureau has designed and done 300 test-flights of the T-50, the stealth fighter Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) plan to refine into the FGFA in about eight years. The Russian Air Force, which has less ambitious specifications than the IAF, plans to induct into service its own version of the T-50, the PAK-FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) by 2017-2018.”

Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) estimates the Russian-Indian market for fifth generation fighter aircraft at 200 planes and the global market at 400 planes.

The initial version of the fifth generation fighter aircraft being created jointly by India and Russia will be ready for flight testing in 2014, the Times of India said earlier, quoting the Chief of the Air Staff and Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne as saying.

“The two sides are close to signing a key contract expected to be worth over 11 billion U.S. dollars for research and development phase of the project in the near future,” the newspaper said.

“The first prototype of the FGFA is scheduled to arrive in India by 2014 after which it will undergo extensive trials at the Ojhar air base (Maharashtra)...we are hopeful that the aircraft would be ready for induction by 2022,” Browne told PTI.

The IAF Chief was in Russia in August 2012 to review the progress made in the programme and the prototypes of the aircraft developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau at Zhukovsky there, the newspaper said.

Browne reviewed the performance of the fifth generation fighter aircraft, called Sukhoi T-50.

“Russia has already given the draft R&D contract to us. It will include the cost of designing, infrastructure build-up at Ozar, prototype development and flight testing. So, India will have scientists and test pilots based both in Russia and Ozar during the R&D phase up to 2019. HAL will subsequently begin manufacturing the fighters,” the newspaper's source said.

Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) First Deputy Director Alexander Fomin said that India and Russia would need at least 6-10 years to build a fifth generation fighter aircraft.

“It takes some time to create a plane. The manufacture of such a sophisticated piece of equipment is a science-consuming process that requires big investments. At least six to ten years will pass before we build a sample of the fifth generation fighter plane and being its serial production,” Fomin said.

In the future, Russia and India plan to sell these planes not only on the national markets, but also in third countries. “We will export it in cooperation with Indian partners,” the official added.

India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation will work on the new fighter plane.

According to Indian media reports, the two parties will invest 8-10 billion U.S. dollars in the project. Experts believe that the new plane will exceed Western analogues by the cost-efficiency criterion and will not only enhance the defence capabilities of the Russian and Indian navies, but will also take a worthy place on the world market.

World experience shows that it takes about 3-4 years to test new planes before their mass production can begin. Russia's new plane may as well fit into this schedule, especially since its maiden flight proved its reliability in different regimes.

Fifth generation planes are currently used only by the United States: F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning. However the Russian plane, tentatively called T-50, surpasses the American Raptor.

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