HAL To Co-Design, Co-develop And Manufacture 200-250 FGFA Fighters





 


HAL would be joining Russia's Sukhoi Corporation to co-design, co-develop, and manufacture 200-250 FGFA; each separately for its respective air force. Joint development and production by HAL for the Indian Air Force are estimated to cost Rs 135,000 crore ($30 billion) or around Rs 500 crore each.

 
HAL's Chairman, Mr Ashok Nayak, told Business Line that the requirements for the Indian version were known but the work packages, that is, HAL's share in the design and development, were to be specified. “We would like to do as much as we can of the design aspect,” he said.

Although the Russian side was testing a single-seater FGFA prototype for its air force, he explained that the Indian version would demand lot of work in new design as well as changes for what could be a two-seater for the IAF.

Mr Nayak said he could not say how long it would take to build the prototypes and reach them to flight certification.

Reports say a preliminary design agreement is to be signed in December when the Russian President, Mr Dmitry Medvedev, comes to India.

Meanwhile, the defence public sector unit is creating a special team from existing and fresh engineers at its design bureau — the Aircraft Research and Design Centre — according to a person familiar with the programme, but who did not wish to be named. It would start with 30-50 engineers, and gradually take it to around 300 people.

HAL would also have to create some of the large infrastructure required for the FGFA, and the lead centre could be Nashik, which has a ready Sukhoi platform. Other divisions would chip in.

At the prototype development stage, HAL would primarily involve the many defence and scientific labs such as National Aerospace Laboratories in Bangalore.

A highly placed HAL official conceded that the FGFA design is extremely complex, and no country will trade the technology; you have to be an investing partner.

Stealth — the feature that makes it undetectable by enemy radars — is the main element of this futuristic aerial killer. For this it has to have a radar-eluding shape and configuration. Its supersonic cruising speed, advanced fire power and manoeuvring, modern avionics, and a 360-degree view set it apart from the fighter products of the 1990s.

The first versions have to make a few thousand flights before they are certified for operation. “Even after 25 years, the LCA (light combat aircraft) is still to be certified for operations,” the official observed.

Design alone takes 30-50 per cent of the cost of an aircraft. Building prototypes could be at least 10 per cent of the cost. The two partners are to equally share the costs from this stage onwards. The HAL version will also be jointly marketed to other countries, but may be made by either partner.

The Chief of Air Staff recently said FGFAs would be inducted by 2018, and would be the main part of a four-brand future air fleet. It includes the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft, currently being evaluated for purchase); the home-made LCA and the Sukhoi-30MkI that is already in use.

In January this year, Russia flew the first single-seater prototype (PAK FA) that its own air force will use. India joined the Russian programme (Sukhoi PAK/FA) in 2007 after a long consideration, while Sukhoi has been at it for at least five years.

Only two other FGFA dreams have taken off: US major Lockheed Martin is leading a pack of European nations in the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35); Lockheed Martin and Boeing are developing the F-22 Raptor. Japan and China are also said to be opening their separate fifth-generation accounts.

The Sukhoi/HAL FGFA will be far superior to the most advanced ones available today: among them the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin F-16; the Dassault's Rafale that is still being developed; Russian MiG-35; Eurofighter Typhoon, or Sweden's Saab 39 Gripen; interestingly, all these are in the race for the IAF's Rs 40,000-crore purchase tender for 126 MMRCAs.

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