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

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

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.