India, Russia close in on fifth generation fighter

India’s fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) options — till now restricted to the joint Indo-Russian plane, the T-50 — have widened.

harinder@tribunemail.com

India’s fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) options — till now restricted to the joint Indo-Russian plane, the T-50 — have widened.  The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has announced a fifth generation fighter of its own powered by either a Russian or  US engine.

On the India-Russia joint venture FGFA programme,  Aero India 2015 seems to have resulted in the deadlock over the past two years being broken. Both sides acknowledged they were close to finalising the T-50 for the PAK-FA programme. PAK-FA when translated into English stands for ‘Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline’. The T-50 has been built by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. 

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said, “The future belongs to fifth generation fighters. Pending issues with the Russians would be resolved soon and we will have a compressed timeline for deliveries.” From the Russian side, state-owned United Aircraft Corporation's (UAC) president Yuri Slyusar said, “The export version of  the fifth generation fighter is being created in partnership with India. The Russian and Indian parties have generally agreed on the work share of each party.” He was hopeful that FGFA partnership with India will take off with full steam this year. 

T-50 delivery: The Russian armed forces in January began to accept into service the first T-50 for testing and mass delivery of the aircraft is expected in 2016. India wants 144 of these fighter jets and is not keen on having a US $11 billion research development contract, saying the plane is already flying and the R&D contract would only waste time. New Delhi has indicated that IAF pilots could fly the prototypes. India wants a twin-pilot version. The T-50 carries modern radar stations, which can detect other “stealth” technology aircraft. In addition, there is the ‘Himalaya’ electronic warfare system and an arsenal of precision weapons. The aircraft is invisible to the enemy radar. 

DRDO’s AMCA: DRDO is in talks with top firms to zero in on an engine for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, a fifth generation fighter jet. K Tamilmani, Chief Controller, R&D (Aero) of DRDO, said “four prototypes are expected in 2019”.  

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