New Delhi: India and Russia will focus on jointly developing and producing the so-called fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and the multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) in the coming decade.
FGFA are the newest and most advanced generation of fighter aircraft designed to incorporate many technological advancements over fourth generation jet fighters including all aspects of stealth, internally carried air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, advanced avionics and integrated computer systems. The MTA is expected to perform regular transport duties and also deploy paratroopers.
“The design of the FGFA has been finalized and we settled all pricing negotiations. The draft proposals are now with the Indian government,” visiting Russian defence minister Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov said in New Delhi on Thursday. The agreement will be signed “in the next few months”, he added.
Serdyukov was speaking on the sidelines of the 10th annual meeting of the India-Russia inter-governmental commission on military and technical cooperation.
The FGFA is likely to enter production by 2020 and India is likely to procure anywhere between 250-300 aircraft. The total programme could cost the Indian exchequer anywhere in the range of $25-30 billion, with each aircraft costing about $100 million, according to a defence ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The fighters will be produced by Sukhoi in Russia and by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in India.
The design contract for the FGFA is likely to be signed during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in December.
In September, the two countries signed an agreement for a joint venture for the development and production of the MTA, of which India is likely to procure 45 aircraft at a total programme cost of $600 million to be shared by Russia and India in a 53:47 ratio, Mint had reported on 10 September.
In June this year, India’s cabinet committee on security had cleared the purchase of an additional 42 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft at an additional cost of Rs15,000 crore.
Several other military purchases from Russia, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and the 10-year lease of the nuclear-powered submarine K-152 Nerpa have, however, been dogged by delays and cost over-runs. While Admiral Gorshkov will cost India $2.33 billion and is scheduled for delivery only by the end of 2012, India has already paid $900 million for the Nerpa, but is unlikely to get the delivery of the Akula-II class submarine before March.
Serdyukov acknowledged that the delays were a matter of concern, but said they were not critical. “We have a great volume of military and technical projects and it is quite natural to have some delays,” he said. “But I will underscore that there are no critical delays in our projects.”
“We have a large number of ongoing projects with Russia. There are some areas of concern. We have discussed these issues threadbare,” said defence minister A.K. Antony. “For most issues, we have been able to find satisfactory solutions. The Russian defence minister has said that he will look into the issues personally.”
Contentious price and technical issues have surrounded the Gorshkov deal. “Despite the cost over-runs, the Gorshkov deal is not as bad as it is being made out to be,” said retired brigadier Rumel Dhaiya, an analyst at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi. “It is a completely refurbished carrier, and building a new one would cost anywhere between $4-5 billion.”