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Aircraft deal between India & Russia goes off the runway.

AN AMBITIOUS Indo- Russian project to co- develop fifth generation fighter planes has hit major roadblocks over the issues of price and technology even as New Delhi has scrapped a programme to jointly produce multirole transport aircraft with Moscow over similar issues.

India and Russia had signed an agreement around 2007 to co- develop both the transport plane and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft ( FGFA) as part of their attempt to pool in resources to develop latest and advanced variants of the aircraft to meet the global challenges in this domain.

" We have decided to scrap the Multirole Transport Aircraft ( MTA) as we don't need the plane anymore due to issues over the technology offered for the planes and constant delays," government sources told M AIL T ODAY . The decision of the government and the Air Force has been conveyed to the Russians some time back, they said.

On the FGFA programme, the sources said the aircraft being built under the plan are going to cost much more than what the Indian Air Force had expected and the technology on offer from Russia is also not up to global standards.

The Russians were developing the aircraft known as PAK- FA on their side as a counter to the American F- 22 Raptor and F- 35 Lightening which are considered the latest combat planes with stealth technologies and abilities to strike farther than their older counterparts.

" The cost of the FGFA progarmme is coming to be huge. While we have already spent close to US$ 300 million ( ` 2,000 crore) on the preliminary design phase, the Russians are demanding US$ 6.7 billion ( ` 44,800 crore) as the development cost of the planes which is coming to be much higher than what we had perceived," the sources revealed.

" The Russians are asking us to make big investments in the programme.

While we are planning to induct only 12 of these planes in their IAF, they are asking India to buy 127 of these aircraft," added the sources.

Sources said the investment of USD 6.7 billion ( ` 44,800 crore) would give India only four prototypes of the FGFA aircraft and it will have to pay another USD 135 million ( ` 900 crore) each for the 127 planes which we would be ready for induction only after the year 2027- 28.

The overall cost of the project for the IAF is likely o come out to USD 24 billion ( ` 1,60,000 crore) which is almost the double the amount the force had envisaged when the project was initiated, the sources said.

The IAF had first started negotiating for the acquisition of more than 210 planes and wanted an equal share in terms of technology Aircraft deal between India & Russia goes off the runway development as it was making equal investment in the project.

Sources said a committee has been formed under Air Marshal ( retired) S Varthaman to see whether the FGFA planes were actually required by the IAF and how did the Russian aircraft compared with the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft ( AMCA) proposed by the DRDO to be developed as an indigenous fifth generation combat plane.

The Varthaman committee has already given presentations to defence minister Arun Jaitley on the matter as the government has to take a final call on whether the FGFA is required or not.

Sources said the decision on developing the AMCA will have to be taken in near future as it will take at least 15 years for the plane to come out of the drawing board to join the IAF for operational service.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:May 21, 2017
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