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By Bulbul Singh

10 Aug 06. Even as Indian Air Force has chosen the Sukhoi 30 MKI as its lead aircraft for the future, the Indian defence ministry is close to finalizing a deal with MiG of Russia for the joint production of the fifth generation aircraft. The move comes after Indian defence ministry favoured the RAC MiG proposal over Sukhoi’s fifth generation aircraft proposal. India and Russia will jointly produce the fifth generation aircraft. Late last month a team from Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and Irkut gave a detailed classified presentation to the Defence Ministry on its fifth generation fighter concept. Sources in the Indian defence ministry say New Delhi has told Moscow that the Sukhoi’s fifth generation program is already in an advanced state of design which negates aspects of joint development at this stage and that the Indian defence ministry would like to jointly develop from stage one.

Sources said, MiG’s proposal on the fifth generation aircraft project is likely to be expected. No details are available on the financing of the project, and the total cost of the project, but sources add that New Delhi will have to shell billions of dollars, contributing nearly fifty per cent of the equity in the joint development project.

The MiG fifth generation aircraft proposal is classified information and the aircraft would be stealth equipped and light weight and less expensive then the Sukhoi’s proposed fifth generation aircraft. Moscow needs to jointly develop the fifth generation aircraft due to financial constraint, and has already expressed its intention to cooperate with India for the fifth generation aircraft project which will meet the futuristic needs of both Indian and Russian Air Force.

A senior Indian defence ministry official said New Delhi is interested not just in financial participation in the project, but want to fully participate in designing, developing and manufacturing the 5th-generation aircraft indicating that MiG proposals is the most appropriate in these circumstances. Sukhoi’s proposed fifth generation aircraft is the PAK FA 121 aircraft. The project of the PAK FA 121 began in 2002, and the prototype is planned in 2008 India’s Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be the Indian Partner along with the selected Russian defence major for the joint development of the fifth generation aircraft. An HAL official said, since the fifth generation project will cost over $ 3bn HAL would like to get involved with the project from the research stage itself.

A defence analyst however expressed surprise over the fact that New Delhi is choosing to opt for the MiG instead of the Sukhoi design in the fifth generation project even after the tremendous of the SU 30 and Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft. India is already producing 140 Russian SU 30 MKI aircraft at HAL Bangalore. India and Russia signed a protocol on November 29, 2004 for the joint development of the fifth generation aircraft. An Indian Air Force official said to maintain the required fleet strength over 40 squadrons, India will have to accelerate the joint develop of the fifth generation aircraft. It is projected that despite the production of 140 SU 30 MKI and procurement of proposed 126 Multirole Medium Range Combat aircraft (MMRCA)the fleet strength will be less then 35 squadrons by 2017, which will be below the optimum strength of 44 squadrons.

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