India has finally talked Russia into giving it equal funding and engineering shares in the next-generation fighter to be developed jointly by the two nations.

A co-operation agreement on joint development and production of the fifth-generation fighter was signed in Moscow last week. This follows the general agreement reached during Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi in January.

A key point of disagreement had been India’s stance that both sides be equally responsible for funding and engineering. Sukhoi argued that Russian designers had been working for five years, making it hard for India to catch up.

Sukhoi’s position prompted India to seek co-operation with RSK MiG. Since the MiG project was less developed that Sukhoi’s, it was easier to reconcile the positions. Also the new MiG I-21 was lighter than Sukhoi’s T-50 and closer to Indian requirements.

But the Indian side agreed in January to accept Sukhoi’s T-50 as the basis for the jointly developed fighter. The decision comes four years after Russia selected the T-50 over the I-21 as its next tactical fighter. Sukhoi plans to fly a prototype in late 2008 or early 2009.

Moscow and New Delhi plan to create a joint venture, similar to that for the Russian-Indian BrahMos cruise missile. Four working groups will study workshare and timing details.

Sukhoi sources say the Russian company agreed to the 50:50 principle, but India has promised that, if its industry is unable to provide its share on time, the Russian partners will be invited on commercial terms to help India catch up.

Source: Flight International