Indo-Russian 5th Gen Fighter Takes Shape As Deal Nears

NEW DELHI --- After years of delay, India and Russia are likely to soon ink a "milestone" pact to finalise the detailed design for the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and move ahead with the multi-billion dollar co-development project.

Government sources said almost all the ground work has been completed to finalise the deal for the design of the jet as well as some other critical issues.

"The contract for the detailed design would be signed soon and that will be a major milestone. It should be signed in the second half of the year," a top official involved in the negotiations with Russia on the project said.

Asked whether India has linked the project to full-scale transfer of technology, the official, who requested anonymity, said both the countries are co-developers and India will have equal rights over the the technology.

"We are co-developers. There is nothing called technology transfer in this project. India has equal rights. We will have the wherewithal to continue production. We are equal partner in the project," he said.

In the negotiations for the project, India had insisted that it must get all the required codes and access to critical technology so that it can upgrade the aircraft according to its requirements.

In February last year, India and Russia had revived talks on the project after a clearance from then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Since then, a lot of issues related to work share, intellectual property rights and technology transfer among others have been sorted out between the two sides, along with the monetary commitments.

In 2007, India and Russia had inked an inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project.

In December 2010, India had agreed to pay $295 million towards the preliminary design of the fighter, which is called in India as the 'Perspective Multi-role Fighter' (PMF). However, negotiations faced various hurdles in the subsequent years.

Sources said the work on various co-development projects have been expedited following the government's renewed focus on modernisation of the armed forces.

In March, India and Russia had signed two key agreements for long-term maintenance and technical support for Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force.

Currently, the IAF operates around 230 Su-30MKI fighter jets and, according to the agreements, Russian defence majors United Aircraft Corporation and the United Engine Corporation will render technical support and provide maintenance services and spares for the fleet for a period of five years.

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