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Indo-Russian fighter aircraft project proposal to get moving

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26 December 2015

An Indo-Russian proposal to jointly produce fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) is expected to soon take off thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to that country. A decision on the project is expected in the next six months, chairman of Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) T Suvarna Raju said today.

''The FGFA programme has regained its speed. Discussions are on. Hopefully, we should know a decision in next six months,'' Raju told reporters in Bangalore.

According to the programme, the two governments were to contribute $6 billion each for prototype development and production at the time of signing the final design contract. The two countries are yet to sign the contract, without which the project won't take off.

The project, which costs an estimated $30 billion, involves Russia's Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Under the project, single-seat fighters will be made in India.

HAL has done the preliminary design, contract of which was signed for $295 million in 2010, Raju said.

HAL, which is already manufacturing multi-purpose helicopter ALH, is gearing up to enter the civil aviation space in a big way.

Last year, it had invited proposals from engine manufacturers ahead of designing an aircraft around a suitable engine. It is now likely that HAL would get support from Russian aircraft manufacturers for developing a regional transport aircraft. This, Raju said, would involve an initial investment of Rs7,000 crore, to develop and successfully demonstrate the aircraft.

"In the next five years, there would be a requirement of 200 regional transport aircraft, one way is to make them under license or development. If you go for joint development, you are always dependent on your big brother whoever is helping you," said Raju during a press conference held to mark the platinum jubilee of HAL.

''The next 25 years' road map would be challenging. We aim to be in the league of top ten aerospace companies in the world,'' he said.

HAL also aims to achieve a Maharatna status in near future and focus on diversifying its customer profile to non-defence sector, Raju said.

The HAL chairman said the helicopter business segment is ''expected to grow manifold and the company will make efforts to see helicopters operate in many parts of the world.''

 ''A year and a half back, HAL took the initiative and proposed that it would like to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). Now we are looking at two ways - brand India aircraft or co-develop a Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA),'' Raju said.

The HAL and National Aeronautical Limited (NAL) had taken the lead to build this 70-90 seater aircraft on a public private partnership (PPP) model with a special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed to steer this project.

''The prime minister, who is the driving force behind 'Make in India', will be here for the foundation laying ceremony on January 2,'' Raju said at a programme to mark the 75th year of the PSU.

In order to avoid dependence on foreign part supplies under the development, the twp partners have proposed to develop an entirely new (Made in India) brand, Raju said, adding that HAL is deliberating the plans.

"We are deliberating whether to create brand India aircraft, that would be our choice because by 2035 India would be number one or two in aviation market," said Raju.

"And with the kind of approach the government is showing and changing the policy, we may prefer the option of creating a brand India aeroplane," said Raju.

Raju said HAL has delivered the first series production Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Teja to Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2015.

"We are trying to make LCA Mach 1 which immediately fits in the requirement of the customer (IAF) as LCA mach 2 would be available for production in the year 2021," said Raju.

HAL is also looking to double production capacity to 16 a year.

"We are planning to increase the capacity to make 16 aircraft per year by 2018 at an investment of more than Rs200 crore. Fifty per cent of the investment will be made by HAL, while the Indian Navy will invest 25 per cent and the Indian Air Force 25 per cent," he said.





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