Monday, 25 January 2016

Indian, Russian negotiators agree on FGFA development: Cost of project reduced to $4 billion each



By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Jan 15

The Indian Air Force (IAF), once an ardent backer of the proposed Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), has for the last two years sharply attacked the project. Critics say the FGFA is on the back burner to clear the way for the French Rafale fighter.

President Francois Hollande of France, who arrives in Delhi on Monday, has talked up the sale of 36 Rafales to India for an estimated $9 billion (Rs 60,000 crore).

Yet the FGFA remains alive. Last month Indian and Russian negotiators achieved a major breakthrough, agreeing to develop the FGFA at a lowered cost of $4 billion (Rs 27,000 crore) in India. That would open the doors to building of 250 FGFAs to replace the Sukhoi-30MKI.

Since 2008, the project was estimated to cost India and Russia $5.5 billion (Rs 37,000 crore) each. Adding inflation, that would be $6 billion (Rs 40,500 crore) each.

Now negotiators from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Sukhoi - the development agencies; have agreed to do this 40 per cent more cheaply, for $4 billion spread over seven years. In the first year after signing, each side would pay $1 billion (Rs 6,750 crore), and another $500 million (Rs 3,380 crore) in each of the following six years.

Sukhoi is already test-flying the FGFA's precursor, which Russia calls the PAK-FA (Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii, or "Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation"). The FGFA project involves improving the PAK-FA significantly to meet the IAF's specifications. The IAF wants some 50 improvements to the PAK-FA, including a 360-degree radar and more powerful engines.

The proposal for a $4 billion research and development contract (R&D contract) will now come before a defence ministry "cost negotiation committee", and then to the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The R&D Contract visualises a prototype fighter flying in India within three years. In total, 11 prototypes would be built - eight of these PAK-FAs for the Russian Air Force, and three FGFAs for India.

Each country has already spent $295 million (Rs 1483 crore) on a "preliminary design contract" (PDC), Parrikar told parliament on August 4, 2015. The PDC, which spelt out the fighter's detailed configuration, was completed in June 2013.

The R&D contract should have followed immediately, but the IAF came out against the FGFA. As Business Standard reported (January 21, 2014, "Russia can't deliver on Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft: IAF") top air marshals alleged during a high-level ministry meeting in New Delhi that the FGFA would fall short of Indian expectations.

According to the details of that meeting, IAF objections to the FGFA were: (a) The Russians would not share critical design information with India; (b) The PAK-FA's engines are inadequate, being mere upgrades of the Sukhoi-30MKI's engines; and (c) Paying $6 billion to co-develop the FGFA would mean that "a large percentage of IAF's capital budget will be locked up."

On January 15, the IAF renewed its attack in a ministry meeting meant to review FGFA progress. It said the FGFA's engine was unreliable, radar was inadequate; stealth features were poor, India's work share being too low, and the price being too high. In a letter to the ministry, the IAF vice-chief raised 27 different objections to the FGFA.

Yet, in a baffling volte-face last year, the IAF proposed the PAK-FA be bought over-the-counter, rather than co-developing the FGFA. There was no official response to questions over why the IAF was willing to buy a fighter it had roundly criticised.

This resistance to the co-development also scuppered a Russian offer to co-develop a more powerful, fifth-generation engine for the FGFA. After roundly criticising the PAK-FA's AL-41F1 engines - upgraded versions of the Sukhoi-30MKI's AL-31FP engines, with 25 per cent more power - the IAF was ready to buy them in an over-the-counter sale.

The FGFA was once the IAF's future. Former defence minister AK Antony rebuffed the US-built fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, saying India would have the FGFA. Indian planners viewed the FGFA as a launch pad for India's fifth generation fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).


Now, with the Rafale's astronomical cost, a cheaper R&D Contract for a "Make in India" FGFA could turn the spotlight back in the Indo-Russian fighter.

15 comments:

Santosh Krishna Venuturupalli said...

"President Francois Hollande of France, who arrives in Delhi on Monday, has talked up the sale of 36 Rafales to India for an estimated $9 billion (Rs 60,000 crore)."

How much are we paying for each Rafale ?? 36 of them for 9B$ !!!

This is out right madness..

Unless there's a typo there somewhere.

Arden said...

Sir when can we expect to see R&D contract signing for FGFA?

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

Article is not clear about what are the principles of agreement?
Are you saying India would not get rights to engine and all the technology in this fighter?
What would India get for $4 billions?
Need more detailed report please...

gurinder said...

Nobody can deny that a 5th generation aircraft will be needed in the coming years to replace SU-30 MKI. FGFA remains the only option . The IAF needs to do what it did with the SU-30 MKI. Get on board and improve it.
The IAF model of buying without ownership of development baffles me. Somebody, get them to look at our Navy which is already on board for NLCA!!

Anonymous said...

In all likelyhood India has made an in-principle decision to turn away from Russian equipment; given Russia's penchant to sell comparable or better equipment to China and the tendency of that equipment to 'leak' into Pakistan. Continue reliance on Russia, and pretty soon, India will find itself facing adversaries on either side fielding similar equipment that was generously paid for by India. The Rafale deal, on the other hand, is more than the 36 fighters being discussed in the media and will happen, even if it takes a while more. The French economy needs the jobs and India needs the defence technology. An agreement has never eluded two needy partners.

Anonymous said...

I feel the problem with the Russians they never stick to same price and they keep bumping up the price. They have inferior engine technology.their engine life is shorter known to give problems and have high rate of ailurophobia and spares availability is always a problem. I don't know how come 126 Rafale jets for 10.6 billion became 9 billion for only 36 jets and if the offsets are good I mean Rafale set up the eras assembly line then the deal is worth it. If they get electronic warfare suite of Rafale. For tejas then worth it. From 2018 tejas has to be built in numbers about 50 plus per year then everything else is worth it. GE 414 is a more complete evolution of GE 404 which was a leaky engine and thus gives 98 KN of thrust with 3 percent fuel economy and overall 6 percent fuel savings. There are small modifications to be made to the undercarriage and GE 414 engine can be fitted to the tejas 1A model and air intakes have to be increased and I would prefer divert less supersonic intakes. The weight would increase with new AESA radar as well as the engine and electronic warfare suite if they decide to go with self protection jammers in the wingtips. Every effort e made to reduce the unnescessary weight and open up the flight envelope further. If was a very pleasing sight to the videos of tejas in Bahrain.try now to start simultaneously o devlop the stealth two engined version of tejas which would be lot easier now and simultaneously devlop AMCA as I feel PAFKA is a weak link as quality of product and price tag and spares are a questionable issue.if your industry develops all the indigenous product line then there is easy up gradation and adaptability that gives you the flexibility of options. There are atleast five different options in electronic warfare hardware that should be explored as it takes 8-10 years to devlop a workable product.

TIMBAKTOO

Common Sense said...

What do you make of the "agreement" that was signed on the Rafale. I seriously believe Modi has shot India in the foot with his decision to drastically rework the MMRCA programme. It would have been more prudent to continue with the then-ongoing negotiations for 126 fighters, or, if those were not going anywhere, junk the whole process and sole source from a new vendor like Saab. Or anyone.

By opting for a new deal with the same vendor, Modi has painted India into a corner.

Anonymous said...

It is a good development. We should have stuck to Su30 & LCA.
The medium fighters ftom west are too expensive. Then ask DRDO to do more on cruise missiles & improve Brahmos.
For upto 120 km , there is always Pinaka .

Anonymous said...

What caused this turn around on part of Russia

This Four Billion dollars in Seven Instalments means that we will get FGFA or PAKFA
after Seven years after having paid all instalments

And when will IAF get to FLY or Test PAK FA

Adabi Mud said...

Ajay, It is slightly disappointing to not to see an article on your blog regarding the recent Tejas's performance at the Bahrain airshow. I have noted in the past that you have been extremely critical to the Tejas program and have written many blogs on why must HAL collaborate with your favourite Saab to improve its so called bad performance? Your recent article on the Government's decision to send Tejas to the airshow, where you have deliberately tried to compare Tejas with substandard JF-17, is just a reflection of your long term agenda. It is actually laughable as Saab didn't offer any such help when the Tejas program was going through a difficult time and now when the performance of a Tejas is more or less matching with that of a JAS Gripen, it is offering a helping hand, which is basically just to cripple HAL's abilities again as HAL is slowly making prowess and learning to stand on its feet. The long term motive is quite clear and that is to sabotage domestic aerospace industry and keep India a buyer of military equipments. I am so glad that after so much hard lobbing and hue & cry from various domestic/foreign media outlets and individuals like you, government and HAL didn't give a damn. It is obviously your blog and you are free to write whatever you like to write but it is quite clear from this untimed piece of writing on FGFA that you have't been able to digest the success of Tejas program. May be it is Tejas's performance that has dazzled you and you are just trying to divert the attention or running away for a cover up.

Anonymous said...

Again this will lead to a license production model

Abhiman said...

Its an unfortunate state of affairs.

The IAF has been speaking in 2 voices on this. Earlier, they foolishly insisted that it'd be a 50-50 "joint development" project. Then later, they raised objections -- albeit very valid ones -- about India's miniscule (actually, nil) engineering contribution, and its obvious shortcomings (given that its tailor-made for Russian needs, not Indian).

From the above, it seems this FGFA drama is even funnier than the 15 year long MRCA buffoonery.

Ideally, the IAF's latter objections should've been heeded, given the fact that there is ZERO Indian contribution vis-a-vis engineering & design, and that its an aircraft made for Russian Air Force's needs. The Indian Air Force hasn't even had a whisper of its wish-list implemented in this thing. And how could it possibly? The jet has already been developed from scratch without any Indian involvement for the Tsar's sake!

We all know that the slap-stick 36 Rafale deal had to be pinned, failing which it would've meandered into oblivion. More importantly, it was sealed to save India some diplomatic face. After all, 5 nations had spent millions over many years pitching their planes to Delhi's babus.

In much the same way, a "deal" is being cobbled with Russia to simply give a king's burial to this zombie of a project. The bright side is that it saves India some face in Moscow and buys some more years of Russian embargo to Pakistan. Nothing else.

Its time to rev up the AMCA....

Raahul Kumar said...

Excellent news that 3 prototypes will be finally flying in Bharat, I remember originally that was supposed to happen by 2016. The IAF's stance on this topic makes no sense, rather than paying premium dollar for an expensive and limited capability plane like the Rafale, it makes more sense to invest for the future in a 5th generation fighter like the PAK-FA.

In particular, investing a new engine is a huge breakthrough after Kaveri failed, more than anything experience in designing and developing jet engines is a crown jewel technology that isn't available for any price elsewhere. We must seize the only chance we are being given.

Anonymous said...

Happy Republic Day to you all...

Do not celebrate until you see the fine print...

For $4 Billions, India must get complete TOT including engine...

No TOT for SU-30MKI, Mig-29K, Smerch, T-90S gun, Destroyers/Frigates, etc
Write the contract properly with penalty clauses for not supplying TOT and spares on demand until India catches up with the manufacturing...

It is very insulting for India to even consider buying this plane when Russians do not even let Indian pilots go near it...

So write the contract with penalties as Russia has history of denying TOT after signing the contract...

Pay additional $1 billion, if the Russians are willing to do joint design and development of engine and right to use the technology in Kaveri series...

Be respectful to Russians as they supplied most of India's armaments but be firm on TOT including engine...

Good ;uck...

Broadsword said...

@ Adabi Mud

Thank you for providing light humour to this comments section... even if you are making yourself look like an idiot in the process.

This blog has been the single most staunch supporter of the Tejas, and of indigenisation in general. From your comments, it is evident that you haven't read my work... and if you have read an article or two, you haven't understood a word in them.

Don't waste everyone's time here. Read my work dating back 15 years. And if you can't be bothered to do that before commenting on it, don't waste your time posting here.