The Indian Air Force, according to recent press reports, harbours doubts as to its continued participation in Russia’s fifth-generation fighter programme. Indian defence industry, meanwhile, is rallying to the project’s support. In terms of technology access, the industrialists argue, it’s the best deal available.
The argument reflects the contradictory imperatives of the air force and of the domestic defence-aerospace industry. For the air force, a key driver is timeliness, as it is already well below its targeted combat-aircraft squadron strength.
For Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), however, maximising its participation in the programme and access to technology are its primary aims. The government’s emphasis on ‘Make in India,’ combined with the state-owned nature of the country’s defence-aerospace sector, at face value strengthen the industrialists’ case.
The extent to which the debate is being played out in public may be partly for effect.
New Delhi’s interest in Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 (Su-57) is aimed at addressing the air force’s Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project, but the air force has concerns, reportedly including costs and the aircraft’s characteristics. Nevertheless, in terms of meeting air-force requirements and industry aspirations, there is no comparable programme available.
So ‘doubts’ as to India’s participation in the programme may be aimed at gaining the best possible deal. Meanwhile, Russian export officials maintain that the joint project is on track. (end of excerpt)
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