Indian Pilots to Zoom In Russian 5th-Gen Fighters


New Delhi: Taking a step ahead to modernize the armed forces in a bid to maintain technological and fighting edge over arch rival Pakistan and a growing China, India is mulling to procure or construct fifth generation fighter jets from Russia.

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia, India has reportedly asked Moscow to allow IAF test pilots to fly its fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) to evaluate its capabilities.

“Flight-testing will help decide the way forward on the collaboration between the two countries on the FGFA. All options, ranging from an off-the-shelf purchase of 60-65 jets to joint production, are on the table,” said a top defence ministry official on Friday.

The fact that India needs an FGFA, which combines stealth, super-cruise capability, super-maneuverability, data fusion and multi-sensor integration on a single fighter, in the years ahead cannot be disputed.

For a country that is yet to even make its first indigenous fighter (the fourth-generation Tejas) fully-operational, the choice is limited. While the F/A-22 ‘Raptor’ of the US is the world’s only fully-operational FGFA as of now, the Russian Sukhoi T-50 and the American F-35 ‘Lightning-II’ Joint Strike Fighter are the ones undergoing final developmental tests.

But having repeatedly rejected the FGFA overtures made by the US, India was slated to seal the project to co-develop and co-produce the Sukhoi T-50 with Russia at least three years ago.

It was after all way back in 2007 that the Indo-Russian inter-governmental agreement for the FGFA was inked. It was followed by the $295 million preliminary design contract in December 2010.

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