SOURCE: VISHAL KARPE / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
According to the latest report, Indian Air Force way back in December 2014 for the first time had informed Ministry of Defence (MOD) that development of proposed FGFA based on Russian Pak-fa Platform was not suitable for induction into IAF and had a number of deficiencies that were found were simply not acceptable to the IAF.
News of IAF not being happy with the FGFA Project has been going on for last few years now, but they were also enough media reports which contradicted them and even claimed that project is on verge of final negotiation until earlier this year when Indian MOD officially informed their Russian counterparts that India is finally pulling the plugs on the multibillion-dollar programme to develop and produce a stealth fighter with Russia .
Initial assessment done by the visiting Indian Air Force team in Russia on prototypes of the Pak-fa had called it badly engineered airframe which compromised its stealth capabilities leaving considerable doubts in the minds of the evaluators even though IAF team was never allowed to fly Pak-Fa Prototypes even after repeated requests by India.
The second major technical shortfall was AL-41F engine fitted on the Pak-fa Prototypes which IAF evaluators called were grossly underpowered and also failed to meet performance parameters of a fifth-generation platform. IAF technicians called it simple uptuned AL-31 engine in disguise which powers IAF’s Su-30MKI platform since many of the IAF evaluators were well versed with the internals of the Su-30MKI platforms.
Radar, Sensor and networking package used in the Pak-fa prototypes were found to be more rudimentary in nature and borrowed from previous generation platforms like Su-30/35 which pointed out that true 5th generation avionics required for a Stealth platform was rather in development or was years away from actual realization to be used on production variant of the FGFA.
IAF evaluators had listed 40 parameters related to the features of the aircraft and its performance that required improvements which the other side did not consider as deficiencies since it was never listed by their own airforce before it goes into the production. This meant that it could be considered as customer-related customization which needed to be funded by the customer that was India.
While Russian side assured India that many of the performance deficiencies found in the engine and Avionics department will be taken care of in near future, roadmap given was stretchy and not convincing enough that all the parameters could be achieved before FGFA enters production. IAF felt many of the listed requirements could only be introduced in batches and then upgraded to other aircraft in the fleet as they came which not only could have been time-consuming but also expensive and hit operational availability of the platform for several years to come.
With different parameters to work on, IAF also reported that it will make the platform simply exorbitantly priced to be procured also and nearly impossible to be acquired in large numbers even if they were manufactured locally in India. Even 3 to 1 replacement of Su-30s with FGFA could have exceeded the budget set by India initially and chances of project going further over budget was also high on the minds of the planners in IAF.
IAF also observed contrary to the previous agreements there was no transfer of technology as Russians were found reculant to share critical design information with India and the original workshare agreements with HAL was diluted over the years of negotiation and had fallen below agreed upon 50:50 ratio, with HAL, stuck with smaller engineering works.
IAF report also highlighted that India taking up FGFA project will be of little help to the local developers back in India to develop its own 5th generation AMCA project since the transfer of technology and technical know-how required to develop a 5th generation fighter jet will never be achieved.
Ministry of Defence due to the negative report prepared by IAF formed a ministry’s panel headed by Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman (retd) who recommended Government of India to go ahead with the project, while IAF stuck with its Original report which asked not to pursue proposed Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft.
IAF has decided to completely back India’s AMCA 5th generation project instead of FGFA and also has committed to procuring more than 18 Squadrons of Tejas (LCA) and Tejas Mk-2 (MCA) till the time AMCA is ready to enter production. For faster replenishment of fast depleting fighter jets, Government has decided to procure 110 units of fighter jets from abroad which will be locally made in India and is keen to push for the purchase of 36 more Dassault Rafale fighter jets post-2021 when the previous order of 36 aircraft is concluded.