Rasheed Kappan

Flight trials in 2009; serial production by 2015

  • Antony and Russian Minister discussed it two weeks ago
  • It will be a joint effort

    BANGALORE: With an Inter-Government Agreement on the Indo-Russian Multi-Functional Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, PAK-FA just round the corner, the Russian Sukhoi Design Bureau has worked out a plan to commence flight trials of the aircraft in 2009 and begin serial production by 2015.

    The ambitious aircraft project would mark a decisive shift in Indo-Russian military cooperation, riding on the success of the ongoing Sukhoi-MKI project. The Sukhoi Design Bureau has conducted the preliminary survey and analysis of the multi-billion dollar project. Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his Russian counterpart discussed the agreement draft when they met two weeks ago.

    "There is a desire to finalise the agreement as soon as possible," a top Sukhoi Design Bureau official told The Hindu, on the sidelines of the Aero India 2007 aerospace exposition. Once the project takes off, the design, development and production of the fifth generation fighter will be a joint Indo-Russian effort on a 50:50 partnership. After a multitude of development stages, the serial production of the aircraft could start in 2015, the official said.

    The Bureau had a series of technical consultations on the project with State-owned aviation major, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), in the second half of 2006. "We found commonality of interest between the Russian Air Force and the Indian Air Force. There is definitely a requirement for the aircraft," he observed.

    Different

    Although the new aircraft will build on the Sukhoi-MKI success, it would be "100 per cent different" from the existing fighter.

    For instance, 30 per cent of the airframe will be made up of composite material, the missiles will be fitted inside the aircraft and its stealth feature will ensure low visibility.

    With a crucial active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, advanced integrated onboard sensors, vectored thrust nozzles for superior manoeuvrability, the PAK-FA can be deployed beyond visual range and also the range of ground attack missiles.

    The PAK-FA's critical advantage over the Sukhoi-30 will be its speed and range. The fifth generation fighter will have a range of over 1,000 km at supersonic speed. This super cruise capability means the aircraft could fly at supersonic velocities without use of engine afterburners. Besides, its built-in test systems will provide increased aircraft reliability, the Bureau official said.

    "We have worked out the basic system development approvals," he said.

    Once under mass production, the PAK-FA would replace the legacy fighters of both the Indian and Russian air forces, such as the MiG-29s, Jaguars and Mirage-2000s.

    But is Sukhoi confident about HAL's expertise in developing a whole new aircraft from scratch. The Design Bureau has no such doubts about the Indian defence firm's capability.

    "We have a good experience of collaboration with HAL on the Su-30 MKI. That project is moving dynamically. We could, of course, learn from mistakes and avoid (LCA like) delays," the official remarked.

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