India and Russia have crossed the first milestone towards the development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), completing the preliminary design. “The preliminary design contract (PDC) for the Russian-Indian fifth generation aircraft has been executed,” Russia’s Sukhoi aircraft company said on Wednesday.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed the $295-million PDC contract in December 2010 with the Sukhoi company, which is responsible for developing the PAK-FA (perspective aviation complex-frontline aircraft), as the FGFA is called.

Under the PDC contract, Sukhoi has also trained Indian engineers and provided HAL with the data and software needed to create a single working environment. A team of HAL engineers and IAF experts has been working at Sukhoi’s design bureau in Moscow, while Russian engineers have been assigned to HAL. Four T-50 aircraft, the Russian prototype of the fifth generation fighter, have already performed more than 200 test flights since January 2010. The customised FGFA version will have “some differences” from the Russian prototype to meet “specific requirements of the Indian Air Force,” the Sukhoi announcement said.

Russian experts have said the FGFA will differ in “mission hardware and software,” as well as weapons. India has dropped its initial plan to redesign the single-seat T-50 into a twin-seat version. This is India’s biggest-ever defence project and its largest defence deal with Russia.

  • This is India’s biggest-ever defence project & largest defence deal with Russia

  • Project is expected to cost India more than $30 billion