Russia, India to advance deal on PAK-FA fighter variant

Singapore
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India and Russia plan to sign several agreements in the coming weeks that will deepen their co-operation on the PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter programme.

"The joint venture is going very well," says Alexander Klementiev, vice-president and deputy director-general at Sukhoi Aviation Holding. "We cannot go into the specifics of where we are, but both parties are happy now. In a few weeks, we will sign a few more agreements that will allow an even deeper partnership."

He adds: "Russia attaches great importance to the partnership with India on all fronts. There may be some delays at some points, but it is, overall, a very good relationship. We are confident this will continue in the coming years."

Klementiev counters several reports made in recent months that Indian scientists and engineers have been unhappy with the level of access they have been given on the PAK-FA programme, saying there is "no major issue".

Other Russian industry sources say there has been a renewed effort over the past few months to resolve some problems, which relate primarily to the transfer of technology to India. Upcoming agreements are likely to be linked to this issue, they add.

In 2007, India and Russia agreed to begin studying a derivative of Moscow's PAK-FA fighter. Although Russia is developing a single-seat fighter, India prefers a twin-seat aircraft with stealth capabilities that would incorporate technology from other suppliers in France, India and Israel.

Both India and Russia have not officially confirmed a timeline for when an Indian prototype will be ready, but industry sources suggest the likely target is 2016-17. Russia had been due to have the first flight of the PAK-FA by year-end, but industry sources say this is likely to be delayed into 2010.

Klementiev says Russia is keen to continue supporting India's fighter requirements, and points to the Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme as a successful example of the partnership between the countries. New Delhi has bought the Su-30s from Russia off the shelf, and is also licence-producing them at Hindustan Aeronautics' facilities.

Separately, the Indian air force's Su-30 fleet is operational once again after the second crash this year involving the type. The service grounded its fleet of about 100 aircraft on 2 December following a non-fatal crash on 30 November. The first accident took place in April. India plans to eventually have a fleet of almost 240 Su-30MKIs.