A high-powered panel appointed by the defence ministry to examine different aspects of the multi-billion dollar fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project has said that India should co-develop and co-produce the stealth fighter with Russia, Indian Air Force sources said.
At a time when the IAF has serious reservations about the project, the committee, headed by Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman (retd), has strongly recommended India should go ahead with it, the sources said.
HT was the first to report on February 11 that the government had constituted a committee under the Air Marshal to assess viability of building the stealth fighter with Russia.
“We were given a task and we have submitted our report to the government. That’s all I can tell you,” Varthaman told HT, refusing to share the details of the report. The committee has pointed out that India would significantly gain from partnering with Russia through the transfer of cutting-edge technology, sources said. The four-member panel looked into various aspects of the project for around five months.
India and Russia are yet to sign a $4-billion research and development contract for the FGFA. India has already spent Rs 1,500 crore in the preliminary design stage, which was completed in June 2013 on the basis of a contract inked with Russia.
India has a requirement for 120-130 swing-role planes with stealth features for increased survivability, advanced avionics, smart weapons, top-end mission computers and 360-degree situational awareness.
The ability to super cruise or sustain supersonic speeds in combat configuration without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners is a key Indian requirement. However, the IAF continues to have reservations about the project due to the high cost and the extent of technology transfer, a senior official said.
Indian military planners are hoping that the technology the FGFA project brings to India would help a programme to build an indigenous stealth fighter or the advanced medium combat aircraft.
The first AMCA prototype could be built in 10-12 years.