Indian PAK-FA variant delayed by two years

The Indian version of Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter might be delayed by two years, press reports in that country indicate.


Image by Maxim Maksimov via Wikimedia

Previously, India’s defense minister A K Antony had said the Sukhoi/Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) would be inducted into the Indian Air Force by 2017. On 14 May, deputy minister M M Pallam Raju told the Indian parliament that the project is being delayed.

 “The fifth generation aircraft is scheduled to be certified by 2019, following which the series production will start,” Pallam Raju says.

The Indian T-50 variant, which the country hopes to buy 250 of, is expected to cost about $100 million per copy–$25 billion for the whole Indian production run. The Russians are also buying 250 jets.

But the Indian variant is far more ambitious that the original Russian version of the T-50. The Indians have a good 40 to 45 improvements that they want incorporated.

One notable feature that India wants is a 360° active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar rather than the more conventional AESA found on the original Russian aircraft. A 360° AESA would be a first for any fighter on the planet, and it will undoubtedly be expensive.

Nor have the Indians determined if they want an enhanced single-seat version of the fighter or if they want to develop a two-seat variant. Redesigning the airframe might adversely affect the aircraft’s stealth characteristics or impact the jet’s performance to a degree that the Indians find unacceptable. It would also add to the jet’s cost. The Indians will make that decision pending the outcome of the FGFA’s preliminary design phase.

The Indian side of the programme is focusing on composite materials that can withstand flights at Mach 1.7. That suggests that the goal of the Indo-Russian effort is to the design the fighter to cruise at around those airspeeds–which would be comparable to the US Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

From the Indian perspective, perhaps the most important aspect of the FGFA effort is that the country’s engineers are being embedded with their Russian counterparts. That would enable the Indians to learn how to design and build a large twin-engine fighter from the relatively early stages of the project.

More here at India’s Business Standard.

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