SOURCE: VINAYAK SHETTY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Indo-Russian multi-billion dollar joint venture to develop a 5th generation stealth fighter aircraft seems to have hit a brick wall after Indian government set up a committee to examine if Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) will actually benefit India since the project already has crossed critical milestones without any Indian inputs.
India and Russia for last Seven years had various differences on different aspects of the FGFA program. Indian Air force already has recommended 43 critical modification for engines, Aesa radar and avionics etc and has termed its airframe non-stealthy enough to be called a 5th generation aircraft in the first place.
Indian Air force is leading the way in calling Russian bluff for long and have questioned their claims on AL-41F1 engines being used on the existing T-50 and its supercruise ability. IAF is also not convinced on stealth features and on radar performance and feels T-50 has already advanced enough for India to have any significant contributions or any benefit for India’s indigenous 5th Generation AMCA program.
The mood in Aero India 2017 surrounding FGFA was clearly negative and uncertain. Russian officials also seemed nervous about FGFA and have upgraded its offer to India and have put on table joint design and development of a brand new fighter jet with a new engine.
New fighter proposed will be completely new design and not based on T-50 developed by Russia. Out of the Box offer by Russians seems to be the last attempt to salvage FGFA deal since Russian air force has shown more faith in Indian variant of Sukhoi-30SM then on ordering T-50 5th generation Stealth fighter developed by Sukhoi.
Sukhoi’s T-50 5th generation Stealth fighter program is not only seriously underfunded program but also lacks global and local interest due to lack of 5th generation capabilities of the jet.
Mood in Indian air force is of that we rather have 4++ Generation fighter with 5th Generation Avionics (Rafale ) then have 4+++ Generation fighter with 4++ avionics since at least in Heavy Class Category for Indian air force, 272 Sukhoi-30MKI post Super-30 upgrade will keep them technologically relevant till 2050 and priorities are to strengthen its Light and Medium category fighter Class which are ageing very fast and will require suitable replacement in next two decade to come .