The progress of India’s futuristic fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project has fallen under dark clouds after Russia, with whom India is developing the fighter jet, hiked the cost of manufacturing the aircraft.
The project could end up costing India over $35 billion over the next two decades from the original $30 billion for over 200 fighters.
However, HAL has reportedly proposed to surrender 30 percent of its 50 percent work share – a move that has allegedly left the Indian Air Force fuming.
According to a Times Of India report, HAL is intent on developing a basic trainer aircraft (BTA) that the IAF does not need since it plans on inducting an additional 37 Pilatus trainer aircraft immediately.
“This is something we do not want to react to because it’s with the MoD that we're pursuing this project. We have provided them with the necessary contention and people can say anything they like,” a HAL spokesperson told Defenseworld.net. “Fact is, HAL does finish projects ahead of schedule if not sooner. Also, we are pursuing all our projects and nothing is on the back burner. This is a government project so we don't want to comment at this time.”
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Sukhoi Company signed a $295-million PDC contract in 2011 to develop the project also known as PAK-FA (perspective aviation complex-frontline aircraft).
In 2012, India announced that it would cut its original order of 214 by one-third and induct only 144 aircraft citing time and cost as key factors. Whereas Russian plans to take delivery of 60 jets estimated to be worth $100 million per fighter.
The FGFA will be based on the Sukhoi T-50 (which has four variants) and will be developed to suit the IAFs needs.
IAF had initially pitched for 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat fighters but will go for only single-cockpit jets now to reduce costs as well as protect stealth features, according to the Times of India.
Currently, Russia is testing several prototypes of the T-50 aircraft, which is due to enter service with the Russian Air Force after 2017. India has expressed interest in developing 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.
India and Russia are in talks on the first research and development phase. Once the agreement is signed, a first prototype will 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,” Indian Air Force Chief NAK Browne was quoted as saying.