Russian government has confirmed that they have received a request from the Indian authorities for allowing IAF pilots to fly the T-50/PAK FA, before New Delhi decides to join the FGFAs development or decides to make an outright purchase.
An official reaction from the Russian Embassy states, “[W]e may confirm that the request was forwarded by the Indian side to the Russian partners. It is now under consideration.”
The option about making an outright purchase of yet undisclosed number of the FGFA is reportedly being thought of in lines with the way Narendra Modi decided to buy the Rafales. Modi is scheduled to visit Moscow in December next.
Retired Air Marshal and former vice chief of air staff, Pranob K Barbora recalls how the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in 2001 when then External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, visited Moscow and a much younger Barbora was the air attaché.
He told Defenseworld “Despite our best attempts to have our pilots undertaking ‘proving flights’ of the MiG-21 BIS and Su-30 MKI, we could not have the Russians to agree to it.” This time the effort is again being made to do the same.
The research and development contract signed by the erstwhile UPA government has costed the country $ 400 million. And sources say, since then the price of the aircraft, being used by the Russian Air Force has shot up substantially.
Next stage of the contracting process, the signing of the joint development agreement, is being held back, while the Modi government is yet to decide the exact path it should take.
Seemingly efforts are on to make PM, Modi, choose the Rafale-like path with a far less number of aircrafts, thus allowing the government to buy some other fifth generation aircrafts also. The next few months before December will show which way the government tilts.