India Has No Plan To Join Or Buy The US-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Programme

  

India has no plans as of now to either join the US-led joint strike
fighter (JSF) programme or buy the F-35 `Lightning-II’ fifth-generation
fighter aircraft (FGFA) when it finally becomes operational.
“We
cannot have two types of FGFA. We have already launched preliminary
work for our FGFA after inking the $295 million preliminary design
contract (PDC) with Russia last month,” said a top defence ministry
official on Friday.

This comes in the wake of comments made by a
top Pentagon official, undersecretary of defence for acquisition,
technology and logistics Ashton Carter, in Washington that the US was
open to Indian participation in its JSF project.

Interestingly,
the comments came during a function where an aggressive sales pitch was
made for India to select either the American F/A-18 `Super Hornet’ (
Boeing) or F-16 `Falcon’ ( Lockheed Martin) over their European rivals
in the ongoing IAF’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contest.

The
other 4.5-generation fighters in the hotly-contested race to bag the
$10.4 billion MMRCA project, under which 18 jets will be bought
off-the-shelf and another 108 will be manufactured in India under
transfer of technology, are Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedish Gripen (Saab),
French Rafale (Dassault) and Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft
Corporation). 

The IAF force matrix for the coming years revolves around the 270
Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion, the 126
MMRCA and 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, apart from
upgraded MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s.

In the decades ahead, the
advanced stealth FGFA to be developed with Russia will be the mainstay
of India’s combat fleet. “Our FGFA will be cheaper than the F-35.
Moreover, the intellectual property rights of the FGFA will equally and
jointly vest on both India and Russia, with full access to the source
code and the like,” said another senior official.

With a potent
mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, the
“swing-role” FGFA will of course not come cheap. The cost of designing,
infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing has
been pegged at around $11 billion, with India and Russia chipping in
with $5.5 billion each.

Over and above this, each of the 250-300
FGFA India hopes to begin inducting from 2020 onwards will cost around
$100 million each. In all, India will spend upwards of $35 billion over
the next two decades in its biggest-ever defence project till now.

The
Indian FGFA will primarily be based on the single-seater Sukhoi T-50,
the prototype of which is already flying in Russia, but will include a
twin-seater version and a more powerful engine with greater thrust.

“Its
complete design will be frozen by the end of the 18-month PDC. Six to
seven of its prototypes should be flying by 2017. After that, there will
be 2,500 hours of flight-testing over 25 months before the series
production begins in 2019,” he said.