Russia has offered to work jointly on a fifth-generation fighter with India, with discussions on the project expected to take place during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi late last week.

Details of the programme - which industry sources say could result in India becoming a partner on the Sukhoi-led PAK-FA project - will be confirmed following a meeting between the nations' defence ministers, with a formal agreement possible within the next few months.

A partnership could see India support research and testing of the aircraft, which Moscow hopes will achieve its first flight by 2009, and possibly enable Hindustan Aeronautics to participate in its joint production.

Industry sources say Indian participation would help Russia ease the burden of financing a project expected to cost around $20 billion in its development stage alone, while India could rapidly acquire a new fleet of strike aircraft. New Delhi's indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft project has been around 25 years in the making, but commercial production is not expected until 2008 - more than 13 years behind schedule.

The nations last week signed a deal to allow licensed production of Klimov RD-33 engines for India's current RSK MiG-29s. Further study of the joint production of a proposed multirole transport aircraft was also agreed.

Source: Flight International