India's quest for a futuristic stealth fifth-generation fighter, which will see the country spend around $35 billion over the next 20 years in its biggest-ever defence project, has zoomed into the decisive phase now.
India and Russia are getting all set to ink the full and final design or R&D phase contract for the 5th Gen fighter by this year-end or early-2013, say sources.
While the Indian fighter will primarily be based on the T-50, it will be tweaked to IAF requirements.
India had inked the $295 million PDC with Russia in December, 2010. The R&D contract on the anvil is pegged at $11 billion, with India and Russia chipping in with $5.5 billion each.
"The three Russian T-50 prototypes have flown around 180 sorties till now. HAL's Ozar facility at Nashik will get three prototypes in 2014, 2017 and 2019...they will be flown by IAF test pilots," said a source.
"Russia has already given the draft R&D contract to us. It will include the cost of designing, infrastructure build-up at Ozar, prototype development and flight testing. So, India will have scientists and test pilots based both in Russia and Ozar during the R&D phase up to 2019. HAL will subsequently begin manufacturing the fighters," he added.
Interestingly, after first specifying the requirement for at least 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat of these 5th Gen fighters, India is veering around to the view that it will go in for only single-cockpit jets now.
I am glad. A long tradition of cooperation and respect with a strategic orientation that is different enough where the two countries will not look at each other as strategic adversaries should do good things for future cooperation.