May 25, 2012 by Neelam Mathews - AIN Defense Perspective
The joint Indo-Russian project to produce a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) for the Indian Air Force is facing a two-year delay. It will now take nine years instead of the stipulated seven to develop. The Indian Air Force attributes the delay to Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), which has a workshare of 25 percent in the program.
The two-seat FGFA is based on the single-seat Sukhoi T-50 PAKFA. HAL is tasked with supplying designs for the tandem seating and cockpit displays, none of which have been provided on time, a senior air force official told AIN. HAL is also responsible for navigation and countermeasure dispensing. Indian junior defense minister MM Pallam Raju recently confirmed the delay to Parliament, commenting, “The fifth-generation aircraft is scheduled to be certified by 2019 [instead of 2017], following which series production will start.” India and Russia concluded the $295 million preliminary design contract for the FGFA project in December 2010, during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India.
There are also concerns the FGFA will exceed its current estimated $6 billion development budget. The unit production price is predicted to be between $93- and $97 million. India will acquire 214 aircraft, making the total cost of the FGFA project at least $26 billion.
The 30-ton FGFA will be “a swing-role fighter with highly advanced avionics, giving 360-degree situational awareness, stealth to increase survivability and smart weapons,” said now-retired Indian Air Force Chief P.K. Naik. Capable of covering long ranges without refueling, it will feature supercruise along with advanced mission computers. The Indian Air Force has specified 43 improvements to the design following its observation of flying trials at the Zhukovsky airbase.