The Indian version of an Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter plane is going to be lighter weight, more powerful and less visible to enemy radars that the original Russian version, according to a senior executive at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Under a joint project with Russia to build a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) India will modify and customise the prototype Russia has developed independently.

“While the Russian version of the FGFA is all-metal, ours will have wings and empennage (vertical and horizontal stabilisers) made of composite materials,” said S. Subrahmanyan, Managing Director of MiG Complex at HAL.

“The use of composites will reduce the plane’s weight and give it lower signature. Our version will also have more advanced Indian-made avionics,” Mr. Subrahmanyan told The Hindu at the Moscow Air Show-2013. He is leading a HAL delegation to the biannual air show being held this year from August 27 to September 1.

“Thanks to these improvements we will get a better and more powerful platform,” Mr. Subrahmanyan said.

The FGFA is going to be India’s biggest and most ambitious defence project and the largest joint venture with Russia. Earlier this year the two sides completed the preliminary design of the FGFA and are now negotiating a detailed design contract. Mr. Subrahmanyan said he hopes the contract could be signed before the end of the current year.

Four Russian prototypes of the fifth-generation fighter, codenamed T-50 or PAK-FA, have performed more than 200 test flights since January 2010. The Russian Air Force plans to begin inducting the plane in 2015.

HAL is to get three Russian prototypes for re-design and testing in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and will hand over the first series produced aircraft to the IAF in 2019, Mr. Subrahmanyan said.

The FGFA project will take the Indian expertise in aviation technologies to a much higher level.

“We’ve moved from license production and technology transfer to co-design and co-development,” Mr. Subrahmanyan said. He pointed out that India supplies avionics for Su-30 Russia is building for Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Co-design offers far greater scope for knowledge sharing compared with license production. In co-design projects all Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are jointly held by parties involved,” Mr. Subrahmanyan added.

India is currently working on two co-design defence projects with Russia – the FGFA and the Multi-role Transport Aircraft, which is already in detailed design stage.

With the West, India has so far had only one co-design project – the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, developed with assistance from Germany’s MBB.

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