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India’s ambitious collaboration with Russia to develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program, a project based on the Su-57 platform, came to an end in 2018. While the official reasons remained unclear at the time, new reports shed light on the potential factors that led to India’s withdrawal.

Disagreements on technical aspects appear to have played a significant role in the program’s demise. Sources suggest India desired a two-seater variant of the FGFA, similar to the Su-30MKI fighter jets, a request not readily met by Russia. Additionally, concerns regarding the transfer of critical technology and design specifications from Russia to India reportedly caused friction.

The project’s ballooning costs emerged as another critical factor. Initial estimates placed the total cost around $30 billion, with Russia planning to procure 250 aircraft and India 144. However, India’s insistence on the twin-seater variant and participation in research and development (R&D) could have pushed the cost per jet for India beyond $120 million. This, coupled with the additional investments in infrastructure and upgrades, could have placed a significant strain on India’s defense budget.

Reports also suggest concerns about Russia’s insistence on a firm commitment for 114 jets. This could have restricted India’s ability to adjust the order quantity based on future needs or budgetary constraints. Essentially, India might have perceived the agreement as a “lock-in” to a potentially unsustainable financial commitment.

India’s withdrawal from the FGFA program marked a significant shift in its indigenous fighter jet development strategy. While the program offered potential benefits in terms of technology transfer and joint development experience, the high costs and technical disagreements ultimately proved insurmountable. India has since focused on its own Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program, aiming for self-reliance in the development of next-generation fighter jets.

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