It’s out in the open now that Indo-Russian 5th generation fighter jet program is fast becoming Clash of egos between Indian air force and HAL after both the organizations expressed opposite views on FGFA Program. Indian Air Force wants the project to be scrapped and the state-owned public sector giant HAL wants Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) to be finalized and become reality soon, while the ball is still in the court of Government of India which will have a final say on it.

Indo-Russian inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project was inked way back in 2007, yet 10 years down the line project is far from becoming a reality after years of negotiations.

A top official involved in the negotiations with Russia earlier this year confirmed that the officials from both India and Russia have sorted out issued related to work share, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and technology transfer among others and have been sorted out financial commitments and order commitment yet the project has failed to make any progress throughout the year .

The rift between IAF and HAL seems to have reached a certain stage now on proposed joint development of 5th generation fighter jet now that both are using their pressure tactics to achieve what they have in mind. HAL which lost the chance to manufacture 126 Dassault Rafale in India will also lose 100 + Single engine fighter jet license manufacturing deal to Private companies and will not have any fighter jet in production after 2020 other the Tejas MK-1A.

HAL is backing FGFA clearly to stay relevant in Indian aerospace sector since many International Aerospace companies prefer to have a tie-up with private Indian aerospace companies over HAL off lately. Private companies have ripped benefits of offsets obligations and have also landed deals worth millions for the supply of spares and components. The private sector in India has matured fast and have reached a stage where many International vendors see them as a part of their global supply chain.

IAF had doubts on the FGFA program from start and in past to IAF had sought nearly 40 changes in FGFA and also had requested to address key issues related to weaknesses in the plane’s engine, stealth, and weapon-carrying capability. Russia on its part has been assuring that all weakness will be addressed and removed from the aircraft when it enters production but there is little evidence to suggest if the project has addressed any issues.

IAF for past few years has been constantly asking for Indian evaluation team to be allowed to carry out technical and flight trials in Russia before its concerns can be put to rest but that has been denied politely. HAL to have failed to confirm how technical issues will be sorted out when it will be fully be depended on Russians to sort out issues in the first place.

HAL clearly doesn’t have any of its own research and development to independently develop a 5th generation fighter technology nor it has any experience in developing next-generation fighter jets. HAL is only promoting FGFA so that its production facilities and those employed for the Sukhoi-30MKI project remain relevant for next two decades even though it has not done anything to address issues raised by IAF.

IAF supporting locally developed 5th generation AMCA program is more to do with its close cooperation with various defense labs under DRDO which are associated with the project. IAF time again has shown little or no confidence in HAL when it comes to execution of aerospace projects undertaken by HAL.The trust deficit between IAF and HAL seems to have reached a level where IAF might drift away in future towards Private sector companies unless HAL is able to pull its socks up and is able to hold on to its largest customer to keep the company relevant.

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