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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Aero India 2011: Is India flying back into Russia’s arms?

By Nirad Mudur | Place: Bangalore

India and Russia have finalised the Russian PAKFA aircraft —a Sukhoi-T50 fighter aircraft — as the base design model for their $6 billion Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) programme. This has not just dealt a death-knell to any prospects of India joining the American F-35 fifth generation fighter programme, but also indicates the nature of things to come on India’s final selection of the $10 billion deal to procure 126 Medium weight Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCAs).

And it does not appear bright for the Americans who have come to Aero India 2011 with Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 IN Super Viper – seriously considered as the two of which one would finally clinch the costliest Indian defence deal till date, which, according to Air Chief PV Naik, would be signed by September this year.

Globally, defence experts and critics are reading too much into the absence of MiG-35 at Aero India 2011 from which it pulled out just a week ahead of the commencement of the event on February 9.
But the Russian delegations visiting Aero India 2011 in Bangalore have confirmed that though their contender for the MMRCA deal, MiG-35, was the only one from the six contenders to have pulled out from the air show, the MMRCA selection committee members as well as defence experts were witness to a series of demonstrations by MiG-35 which also carried out extreme manoeuvres in Indian as well as Russian conditions. Sources said the aerial manoeuvres demonstrated also involved “some which would not have been allowed to be carried out at any of the air shows” and that the Indian side were “thoroughly impressed”.

According to Mikhail Pogosyan, general director of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), MiG-35 has already conducted modifications as per requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF), and Russia is ready for technology transfer as per Indian wishes.
Meanwhile, PV Deshmukh, managing director, MiG division, HAL, told DNA, that even as far as FGFA programme was concerned, there would be no problems about technology transfers with the Russians.

But he stopped short of putting anything on record about shape of things emerging if India were to select any of the American fighters which are competing for the MMRCA deal.

That is because the Americans, among the six contenders for the MMRCA deal, are the only ones feared to play havoc with technology transfer supports; and that’s a crucial issue as far as India is concerned.

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Road to T-50

Pak Fa (T-50) First Flight Full Video

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