AERO INDIA: FGFA to be inducted in 2017, says defence minister

Singapore
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Indian defence minister AK Antony has re-affirmed his nation's commitment to the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) being jointly developed by Hindustan Aeronautics and Russia's Sukhoi, while also voicing his optimism about one of its other key military aviation programmes.

"The difficulties in joining this programme are over," he says of the first project. "We've signed a deal with the Russians, and we will see the FGFA inducted by 2017."

Russia's developmental PAK FA fighter had its maiden flight in early 2010, and late last year it agreed with India to cooperate on a combined project. New Delhi will send engineers to work with Sukhoi in Russia to develop the Indian variant of the aircraft.

"Our armed forces need this capability," Antony says. "We are concerned about the situation around us, so we need to strengthen our armed forces."

While there have been worries over the level of technology transfer that would come to India via the FGFA project, Mikhail Pogosyan, chief executive of Russia's United Aircraft, describes this as a non-issue.

"The level of technology transfer is all spelt out in the contract," he says. "There will not be any issues. This is not the first time we are working with our Indian colleagues, there have been programmes in the past like the Su-30 where we have been happy to give the latest technology," Pogosyan adds.

"Other countries may not be as willing to do this, but we are always willing to offer the best products and best technology to India. This programme is a significant shift in our relationship, and we are willing to share all of our intellectual competencies and skills."

Meanwhile, Antony also confirms that the indigenous Tejas Mk II fighter will have its first flight in 2015. While he acknowledges the lengthy development problems that have affected the Tejas programme until now, he notes that the type "is still in its infancy, and developing an aircraft such as this is a process. It will be committed to service very soon," he adds.

He also discussed the Kaveri engine, developed by the state-owned Gas Turbine Research Establishment, and originally intended to power the Tejas but still undergoing testing in Russia. Asked whether the Kaveri is a failure, Antony says it is still "under development".

"This is the biggest ever Aero India show, and demonstrates the emergence of India, our aerospace sector, and the growing importance of armed forces on a global stage," says Antony.