India withdraws from FGFA or Su-57 (PAK FA) project

The Janes 360 reported citing Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval that Indian Air Force is pulling out of 11 years old collaboration of a Fifth-gen fighter jet with Russia. The Indian Air Force always questions the technological capabilities of Su-57 or PAK FA fighter jets especially stealth capability.

Su-57-A
Russia’s Su-57 Fighter Jet

Senior Indian officials, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, recently informed a visiting Russian ministerial delegation that India was withdrawing from the program, official sources told Jane’s on 20 April.

The Indian variant of Fifth-gen fighter was to be based on Su-57 and would have been manufactured in Hindustan Aeronautical Complex (HAL) if the project were to go ahead. The Russian news agency TASS also reported that the FGFA project had gone belly up from the Russian side.

The Indian officials are believed to have stated that the IAF could, at a later date, ‘revisit’ the FGFA project or acquire the fully developed platform once it had been inducted into the Russian Air Force but did not elaborate.

Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not talk about FGFA program with the Russian counterpart during her visit to Moscow in early April 2018.

“The FGFA project had become an instance of too little, too late,” said a military analyst and retired air marshal V K Bhatia. To pursue it any longer would not have served the IAF interests in any way as it struggles to make up fast-depleting fighter numbers, he added.

The IAF believes that the Sukhoi Su-57 (T-50 PAK-FA) fighter, which India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) designated the Perspective Multi-Role Fighter, does not meet its requirements for stealth, combat avionics, radars and sensors. Seven FGFA prototypes are currently undergoing flight-testing in Russia, but for now, there is no indication as to when the platform is likely to enter series production.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is formally requesting a classified briefing by U.S. defence contractor Lockheed Martin on the capabilities of its fifth-generation stealth multirole F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II, the aircraft’s conventional takeoff and landing version, according to Indian media reports. However, rumours of background talks about the possibility of purchasing the stealth fighter have persisted.

F-35
Lockheed Martin F-35

“At the moment, India is considering a number of U.S. systems for purchase, all of which USPACOM fully supports: the F-16 for India’s large single-engine, multi-role fighter acquisition program; the F/A-18E for India’s multi-engine, carrier-based fighter purchase; a reorder of 12-15 P-8Is; a potential purchase of SeaGuardian UAS; MH-60R multi-role sea-based helicopter; and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter” a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing USPACOM boss Admiral Harry Harris Jr. said.

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