Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)
Medium Combat Aircraft
India's Hindustan Aeronatics Limited (HAL) is to build the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), a derivative of the Sukhoi T-50, in India. The two nations signed a 50/50 joint venture to build the aircraft in December 2011. At that time Russia wasy testing a handful of prototypes of the T-50 aircraft, which was due to enter service with the Russian Air Force after 2017.
The Medium Combat Aircraft [MCA] was envisioned as a replacement for the British Jaguar and Mirage 2000 the IAF flies, which as of 2002 were to be phased out by 2015. Development costs were expected to be over US$2 billion. As of mid-1997 the MCA design concept had no vertical stabilizer and employed an advanced flight control system coupled to axisymetric nozzles. At that time, India's DRDO intended to develop a stealthy Medium Combat Aircraft, a further extension of its LCA design, in order to replace the Jaguar and Mirage inventory beginning around 2010. The twin engined aircraft was planned to have a thrust ratio of 7:8:1, and GE, SNECMA, and Klimov have all offered to provide the engines for this aircraft.
In June 2001, India was offered 'joint development and production' of a new 5th generation fighter by Russia. Russia had been trying to sell this concept both to China and India for some time, but this time it was made directly to India's Defense Minister. The Russian Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi (PAK FA), which means 'Future Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces'. It is intended to be the same size as the US JSF but have a mission profile closer to the F-22 Raptor, with air superiority being the primary mission and ground attack and reconnaissance being secondary. In November 2001, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Ilya Klebanov's announced that India and Russia had agreed to jointly develop a fifth-generation strike aircraft. This was the result of a four-day visit to Russia by India's Prime Minister.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major said in July 2007 that the air force wanted to reduce the inventory in its combat jet arsenal to three aircraft systems only, and over the next few years, it would use the home-made Tejas as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the new foreign-built MRCAs as the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) and the 35-ton SU30-MKIs as the Heavy Combat Aircraft (HCA). [that is, he made no mention of an indigenously-developed stealthy Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA).]
In October 2007 India and Russia signed a pact on jointly developing and producing a fifth generation combat jet. The fifth generation fighter deal is valued at $8 billion - making it the largest between India and Russia. 'What we are looking at is an aircraft that can match, if not equal, the (Lockheed Martin) F-22 (Raptor),' currently the only fifth generation fighter flying anywhere in the world, an Indian official said. 'Toward this end, the plane will have the most advanced avionics like AESA radar, electronic warfare capabilities and a multi-role armaments package,' the official added.
In February 2008 Air Chief Marshal F H Major told India Strategic that discussions to finalise the technical specifications of the Indo-Russian project were on, and that its induction should begin "from 2017 onwards." The Air Chief said: "FGFA's development is expected to take up till 2016 and induction (should be) from 2017 onwards."
In December 2008 it was reported that Russia would soon sign a contract with India to jointly develop and produce a fifth-generation combat jet from next year. The director general of Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi, Mikhail Pogosyan, said "We plan to begin flight tests (of the fighter) as early as in 2009". The Russian-Indian advanced multi-role fighter is being developed by Sukhoi, which is part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), along with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Russia and India will simultaneously develop two versions of the combat aircraft - a two-seat version to meet the requirements of India's air superiority policy, and a single-seat version for the Russian Air Force.
In February 2009 P S Subramanyam, Director of the Aeronautical Development Agency, a Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) lab, said that the ADA planned to design and develop a medium combat aircraft with "stealth features" in partnership with Indian Air Force. "We are working with (Indian) Air Force as to what their requirement is ... They (IAF) are also coming forward to evolve the specifications of medium combat aircraft...what we call next generation fighter aircraft," Subramanyam said. He said it would be in the 20-ton category, twin-engine aircraft, likely to be powered by the Kaveri-Snecma engine. "It will have stealth features," he said. "It's going to be a joint activity (between ADA and IAF) from beginning", Subramanyam said, adding "it's good that even Air Force is also feeling that we should take up this program".
M. Natarajan, DRDO chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister, told reporters at the 7th edition of the international air show Aero India-2009 in Yelahanka that "It is possible to have an MCA with a twin engine, with less weight and improved electronics. It will also have an inbuilt weapon load for stealth reasons. It is doable and it is a challenge."
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major said in February 2009 that in about 10 years, IAF should have manned Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) produced jointly with Russia.
The proposed HAL-UAC joint venture to develop and manufacture 250 fifth-generation fighters each for the Russian and Indian Air Forces remained in negotiation following Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 5th visit to India in March 2010. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will have 25% share in the design and development. The fifth-generation fighter jointly developed by India could be completed by 2015-2016.
India's Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne told India Strategic on 16 October 2012 that India would reduce by a third its order for the fifth-generation stealth fighter being developed jointly with Russia. India will now order just 144 of the fighters, all single-seat models, Browne said, down from an originally-intended batch of around 200, including 48 two-seaters. The original figure, of 200 aircraft, would have been possible if the aircraft was ready by 2017, with the first batch coming from Russian production lines. But India wanted to take on a greater share of development, pushing back the production date for the Indian variant, which is likely to be 2020 at the earliest.
India wanted to produce some of the aircraft's computers, software, guidance systems and other systems, as it did for a similar project with Russia producing a locally-made variant of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI strike aircraft. Russia would provide the aircraft's Saturn 117S engines and some stealth technology elements for the plane.
A total cost for the program had yet to be worked out, but could total around $30 billion including development costs, HAL sources told India Strategic. The two countries were in talks on the first research and development phase. After this agreement was signed, a first prototype would likely be delivered to India in 2014, followed by two more in 2017 and 2019. Series production aircraft “will only be ordered based on the final configuration and performance of the third prototype,” Browne said.
The downward shift in number may be indicative of the projected cost of the platform, although given that the aircraft is still likely a decade away from Indian service then the planned off-take number could well change. Also of note is the suggestion that the aircraft will all be single-seaters. The air force had in the past, including with the MMRCA program to buy light fighters, tended to prefer a mix of single and two-seat aircraft.
India’s The Economic Times newspaper reported on 17 October 2013 that Indian military officials were concerned over the country’s work share in the FGFA project, which is currently only 15 percent even though New Delhi is bearing 50 percent of the cost. According to the paper, India’s defense minister was expected to raise that issue during his visit to Russia beginning November 15. By late 2013 the $11 billion final design and research-and-development contract was under negotiation between the two countries. The total program was expected to cost India about $25 billion to $30 billion.
India’s share in research-and-development work for the joint Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project with Russia was limited by India's domestic industrial capabilities but will gradually increase with the project’s implementation, a Russian military expert told RIA Novosti 25 October 2013. “The figure cited by the Indian side reflects current capabilities of India’s industry, in particular the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] corporation,” said Igor Korotchenko, head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Global Arms Trade. “With the progress in the implementation of this project, we expect the Indian engineers and designers to approach the share determined in the [Russian-Indian] agreement: 50 percent,” Korotchenko said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti. Russia will certainly provide all necessary knowledge and logistics support to Indian specialists, but developing skills and acquiring experience in design and development of advanced fighter aircraft takes a long time and substantial effort, the expert added.
The Indian fighter jet will be based on the Russian single-seat Sukhoi T-50 or PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter, which now has four prototypes flying, but it will be designed to meet about 50 specific requirements by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Russia and India have completed the preliminary design for the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), Andrey Marshankin, the regional director of international cooperation at the united Russian-Indian aircraft manufacturing company said 10 January 2015. Marshankin noted that while the Russian version of the fifth generation fighter jet is operated by a single pilot, the Indian Air Force prefers aircraft that are operated by two pilots. “In difficult conditions of modern warfare it is extremely difficult to simultaneously maneuver [the aircraft] and attack the enemy. Currently, the Indian side suggests that the Indian version of the fifth generation fighter will be made for two pilots,” he said. Deliveries in Russia are set to begin in 2016, but in India bureaucrats had also pushed back certification to 2019, after which production could be authorized.
India was ready to invest $25 billion in the development and purchase of 127 fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft (FGFA). It would also make concessions to speed up the delivery of fighters and have the first ones available in 36 months instead of the previously envisaged 94 months, sources told The Times of India 09 March 2015. “We have agreed to a lesser work-share for a realistic contract, with the initial lot of the FGFA being imported and the rest being made here under technology transfer,” a source at HAL told the Times of India. And it appeared that future Russian-made fifth-generation fighter aircraft for India will cost little more than European 4G jets, as the final negotiations with Dassault for purchase of 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircrafts indicated the price would exceed $20 billion.
Russia and India will continue their co-development of a fifth-generation fighter plane after signing an experimental design contract, India’s defense minister said on 31 July 2015. "The preliminary stage of the project was completed in June 2013 and the next phase of development will commence after we have signed off on the experimental design contract,” Manohar Parrikar said in a written answer to a pertinent question from two members of the lower house of parliament.
Ajay Banerjee reported in the Tribune News Service on 10 August 2015 that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had halved its demand for Russian-built fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) in order to cut costs and prune military imports. The IAF scaled down its needs to just three squadrons (around 18 planes in each), besides a few more for training of the pilots, will be enough for now. This worked out to be 65 planes, almost half from the earlier projection of 127 FGFAs to be jointly designed and produced by India and Russia. Simultaneously, the IAF is also working on a $11 billion R&D contract for long-term development of the jet, with deliveries envisaged to commence 94 months – eight years. New Delhi suggested to Moscow that the T-50 fighter jet can be supplied to the IAF, while the research to improve upon the aircraft can carry on simultaneously.
In late 2015, Russian Deputy Minister Yuri Borisov announced that the Russian Air Force would only purchase a squadron (18-24 aircraft) of PAK FA fighter jets, and procure additional Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft instead. The announcement apparently finally made India lose faith in the program.
In December 2015 Russia made a new offer on the delivery of Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) fighter jets to India. Under the new offer, India would have to pay $3.7 billion, instead of $6 billion, for the technological know-how and three prototypes of PAK FA fighters. But the Indian Air Force (IAF) remains opposed to the idea. A senior IAF official said, “We are not in favour of the FGFA. The PAK FA fighter is too expensive at even this rate, and we are not sure of its capabilities.”
During the annual India-Russia summit in late December 2015 in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to resolve the ongoing disagreement between the two countries over the future of the joint fifth generation fighter program.
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