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By Bulbul Singh

15 Dec 10. India and Russia are to jointly develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) of which the Indian Air Force will buy 300 aircraft worth $30 billion. The deal will be signed during Russian president Medvedev’s visit to India from December 21-22.

The Indian Air Force will meet its urgent requirements of aircraft from the FGFA increase fleet strength to the required squadron strength of 44, up from the current level of 31.5 squadrons.

“The big ticket FGFA order from the Indian Air Force could even hit the ongoing procurement of its $10 billion MMRCA.” said Indian Air Force sources. “The MMRCA procurement process is already over two years late and, given the current political climate in the country, could get delayed by another three-to-four years.” added the sources.

“FGFA is likely to be inducted by 2017. By the time MMRCA gets inducted the aircraft could be obsolete for the IAF.” say some service officers. MMRCA is expected to be inducted by 2017-18, but, given the current slow rate of the procurement process, the MMRCA could be very late for effective IAF use. Moreover the MMRCA RfP says the aircraft should to be within the 14 to 30 tones range.

“The FGFA which is around 30 tonnes could be the best in this range and will definitely beat all its competitors.” say service officers.

The FGFA will be jointly developed by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and the will be a variant of the Sukhoi T-50 model. The T-50 prototype has already been tested and the second is ready for testing.

Indian engineers have been involved with the design and development of the T-50 and were present during the flight trials of the of the T-50 prototype in Siberia.

The T-50 FGFA, a stealth aircraft, has a Radar Cross Section (RCS) of just 0.5 square meter as compared to the Su-30MKI’s RCS of about 20 square meters.

An IAF officer said, “The FGFA will be as advanced as the F-22 Raptor.”

HAL has already built over 100 Sukhoi 30MKI under license from Russia and has experience of working with the Sukhoi Design Bureau.

However, it is still not known to what extent HAL will be involved in the FGFA development.

HAL’s workshare will include critical software, including the mission computer, navigation systems, most of the cockpit displays and counter measure dispensing systems.

The FGFA will have additional Indian participation with composites, thus the composite content will be higher in the FGFA fuselage compared to other Russian aircraft which are largely titanium-based.

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