India To Get 250 Stealth Fighters


India will eventually spend over $25 billion to induct 250 advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), on way to being co-developed with Russia, in what will be the country's biggest-ever defence project.

With a potent mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities, each FGFA will cost upwards of Rs 450 crore or around $100 million.

This will be in addition to the huge investment to be made in co-developing FGFA with cash-strapped Russia, as also the huge infrastructure required to base, operate and maintain such jets in India.

"We are looking to induct 200 to 250 FGFA in phases from 2017 onwards,'' confirmed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik on Monday. As reported by TOI earlier, New Delhi and Moscow are looking to ink the FGFA preliminary design contract when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev comes visiting here in December.

Under intense negotiations for the last four-five years, the FGFA project will also figure in the talks between defence minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on October 8.

Though the Indian FGFA will based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA, which flew for the first time this January at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility in Siberia, it will be built to IAF's specifications. It's already being touted as superior to the American F/A-22 `Raptor', the world's only operational FGFA as of now.

ACM Naik said the 30-tonne FGFA will be a "swing-role fighter, with very advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability, enhanced lethality, 360 degree situational awareness, smart weapons, data-links, high-end mission computers'' and the like.

Along with 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, which India plans to acquire in a $10.4 billion project, 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion and 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, the FGFA will be the mainstay of India's air combat fleet for the foreseeable future.

Even as the Army revises its war doctrine to factor in the worst-case scenario of a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China, is IAF also preparing for the same?

"Our modernisation plans are based on the four pillars of `see, reach, hit and protect'...We prepare for a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, multi-front war,'' said ACM Naik.

"But our approach is capability-based, not adversary-specific. Our modernisation drive is in tune with our nation's aspirations,'' he said, adding that India's strategic interests stretched "from Hormuz Strait to Malacca Strait and beyond''.

To a volley of questions on China and Pakistan, IAF chief said, "All neighbours, from the smallest to the largest, have to be watched with caution...Their capabilities have to be assessed...Anything that can upset the growth of our nation is a matter of concern.''

With the new planned inductions in the pipeline, IAF's obsolescence rate will come down to 20% by 2014-15 from the current 50% or so. "But this does not mean that we are not fully capable of defending the country from any air or space threat at the moment...We are,'' said ACM Naik.

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