India is close to signing an agreement on co-developing the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) for use by the Indian Air Force (IAF), defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said during his media interactions to mark the second anniversary of Modi government.
The deal over signing a Research and Development (R&D) contract is stuck since 2013 and holds significance for IAF which is dealing with a depleting fighter squadron.
Officials told dna that IAF wants more than 30 modifications in an existing prototype of FGFA. These include advanced avionics, maneuverability and stealth features before going ahead on signing the R&D contract. "The talks with Russians is at an advanced stage. We shall reach a contract soon,"a senior official said.
The aircraft is to be jointly produced by the defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation. IAF requires 200 twin-seat and 50 single seat aircraft to replace Mig-29s and MiG-27s, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
India signed the Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) with Russia for co-development of FGFA) in October 2007. The preliminary design stage of the FGFA programme was completed in June 2013 on the basis of a contract signed in December 2010. The next stage of development of FGFA awaits signing of the R&D contract.
Currently IAF's squadron strength is at 34 as against the sanctioned strength of 42. IAF's front line fighters, the Russian Sukhoi 30's serviceability is around 55 percent only and vice chief BS Dhanoa is March last said IAF is not ready for a two-front war with China and Pakistan together.