New Delhi: IAF chief, air chief marshal, Fali Homi Major expects the first developmental flight of the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), a project which it is supposed to co-develop with Russia, to take place in the period 2015-2016.
''The FGFA should fly for the first time by 2015 or so. If it manages to do so earlier, then it will be a big achievement. Negotiations with Russia are making good progress, with the details being worked out,'' the IAF chief informed the media on Thursday.
''It is very complex to design and develop an FGFA. The FGFA we want will be an entirely new platform, with many additional features, stealth being an important one,'' he added.
The Indian and Russian governments have entered into an agreement to co-develop and produce a fifth generation fighter aircraft that will match similar aircraft technologies, either existing or currently under development.
As envisaged by the IAF, the FGFA will fulfill futuristic requirements of the IAF, and will come equipped with a lethal mix of super-manoeuvrability and super-cruise ability, long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities. Apart from offering a ''minimal'' radar cross section the FGFA will also have ''a very high degree of network centricity'', as also multi-spectral reconnaissance and surveillance systems, such as optical, infra-red, laser and radar sensors.
As with most Indo-Russian projects this one also comes attached with troubles. The problem this time around is that Russia has already frozen the design parameters of the FGFA with the first prototype, a single-seater Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA, likely to fly by 2009. India, however, wants a twin-seater FGFA version, built to its requirements.
Discussions are afoot in an attempt to sort out problems. Currently, the American F/A-22 'Raptor' is the only operational FGFA in the world. Another, the F-35 'Lightning-II', is being developed in partnership by the US, UK and seven other countries.
It will take well over a decade for an Indo-Russian FGFA to become fully-operational. The IAF hopes to induct 126 new multi-role combat aircraft from the period 2012-2013 onwards to fill in the gap before the FGFA becomes operational.