India to seek full tech transfer for 5th generation fighter JV with Russia

India will participate in a joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, only if technologies are transferred to the Indian partner or other designated Indian entities, reports quoting defence ministry sources in New Delhi said.

Sukhoi PAK FAThe decision was taken at the "highest levels" to avoid "mistakes" made during the earlier acquisition of Russia's Sukhoi Su-30MKI jets, which had not mentioned the transfer of technology aspects.

The FGFA project, to be jointly developed by Russia Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, is part of the Make in India initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.

The two countries, incidentally, had inked the FGFA inter-governmental agreement way back in 2007, which was followed by a $295 million preliminary design contract in 2010 before the negotiations got stalled.

A report in a Russian magazine said Vladimir Drozhzhov, the deputy director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), had last month said the two countries have agreed on a draft contract for the joint development of the FGFA and that the Russian side was ready for its signing.

However, the project failed to take off due mainly to problems with the agreement pointed out by the Indian Air Force.

IAF has been unhappy with Sukhoi because the jet lacks proper stealth. Also, defence ministry sources say this decision has been taken at the "highest levels" in order to "not repeat the mistakes" of the entire Sukhoi-30MKI jet acquisition programme.

The Sukhoi project cost India Rs55,717 crore, but it did not give the country any tangible benefit in developing indigenous fighter-manufacturing capabilities.

"Though bulk of the 272 Sukhois (240 inducted till now) contracted from Russia have been made by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), they have been basically assembled here with imported knocked-down kits. HAL still cannot manufacture the Sukhois on its own," the report quoted the official as saying.

A HAL-made Sukhoi costs around Rs450 crore, about Rs100 crore more than the price of the same jet imported from Russia.

India now wants value for money for the estimated $25 billion it will spend to induct 127 of these single-seat jets.

Apart from the cost-effectiveness of the project, India wants extensive technology transfer, including the "source codes", to ensure that it can in the future upgrade the fighter with integration of new weapons on its own.

It should directly help the indigenous FGFA project called the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), the preliminary design work for which is now under way.

On the other hand, IAF has been unhappy with the Russian FGFA called Sukhoi T-50 or PAK-FA because the jet lacks proper stealth and its engine does not have "enough thrust", which are among 43 critical modifications or shortcomings it pointed out earlier.

Russia, however, is reported to be promising that the Indian FGFA or the "perspective multi-role fighter" will be quite different from the Sukhoi T-50, with more powerful engines and other capabilities. As per the R&D contract, India and Russia are to contribute $4 billion each for prototype development, testing and infrastructure build-up.

Final production and deliveries of the fighters, which would involve fresh production contract, were earlier expected to begin 94 months after signing of the contract.