Defence News: This is one deal we were watching with eager eyes and it has moved, saving us our breath! India and Russia are to finalize the detailed design agreement on the Gen-5 fighter known to us as FGFA and in Russia as T-50. (seen in the image below, it differs from the Indian version) Government sources said almost all the ground work has been completed to finalize the deal for design of the jet as well as some other critical issues. “The contract for the detailed design would be signed soon and that will be a major milestone. It should be signed in the second half of the year,” a top official involved in the negotiations with Russia on the project said.
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The best part is India getting it’s hands on the technology involved, which makes it a builder and partner in the process at the same time. Earlier contracts like the SU 30MKI production (licensed) fell short of key technologies like crystal blades etc. which politicians at that time hushed away saying the cost was too high, not realizing that it was a key component of any modern engine design. “We are co-developers. There is nothing called technology transfer in this project. India has equal rights. We will have the wherewithal to continue production. We are equal partner in the project,” the official said. There! he nailed it, all your concerns about tech transfer. So here we have a 5th generation fighter, ready to begin prototyping (for Indian version, Russian is already flying)
The real benefits of co-development
Access to technology for this aircraft gives the airforce ample room to make changes and upgrades for any new or newly realized requirement. It also paves the way for an excellent off the block starting point for new aircraft development, spin off for other sectors as well as the AMCA for HAL. The scientific pool and industrial base that will benefit out if the deal is un-measurable. For example, technologies developed for LCA Tejas have been used for upgrades to almost every aircraft in the IAF. Small components and large ones alike, fabricated composite parts and electronics, all have benefited thanks to LCA’s development process. Similarly spinoffs from ISRO adorn a lot of research and production projects. This is how a country develops its full aerospace spectrum. Time will prove how small things add up to space faring starships, but that’s another story.
Need a new jamming module or want the aileron design tweaked? No problem just hand me over the spanner will you? These are probably the best Engineering moments. Follow Defence news updates on facebook
How slow bureaucracy made a supersonic jet crawl
In 2007, India and Russia had inked an inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project. In December 2010, India had agreed to pay USD 295 million towards the preliminary design of the fighter, which is called in India as the ‘Perspective Multi-role Fighter’ (PMF). but negotiations faced delays and roadblocks in the subsequent years. The Modi government is certainly showing eagerness to work it’s way up the equipment requirement ladder. let’s hope they nail it once for all.
The Indian Airforce may field 200 fighters initially, but considering how well it performs, the numbers may swell to 500 or more considering that the force mix will have lesser types and just 3 or 4 types may be in service. Once Sukhoi 30MKI, Rafael (don’t worry, it’s still new) and older legacy jets pass their usable age, this fifth generation fighter will be fully evolved into a close to 6th generation jet and that will surely push the numbers. It is not so difficult to see once you consider it’s a new aircraft with lot of development potential. Look what they have done to the F16 and you will realize how successful fighters can have a long life ahead.