Friday, 20 April 2018

The FGFA is dead... $8.63 billion advanced fighter aircraft project with Russia put on ice

NSA Ajit Doval tells Russia that India is shelving the $8.63 billion proposal to co-develop the FGFA

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Apr 18

The proposal for India and Russia to jointly develop an advanced fighter – the eponymous Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) -- has been formally buried.

Business Standard has learnt that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval conveyed the decision to a Russian ministerial delegation at a “Defence Acquisition Meeting” in end-February.

Doval and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, who attended the meeting, asked the Russians to proceed alone with developing their fifth-generation fighter. They said India might possibly join the project later, or buy the fully developed fighter outright, after it entered service with the Russian Air Force.

New Delhi and Moscow have discussed the FGFA since 2007, when they agreed that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would partner Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau (Sukhoi) in developing and manufacturing the fighter. In 2010, Sukhoi flew the fighter, called Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii, or “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation” (PAK-FA). Seven prototypes are currently in flight-testing.

Russia said the PAK-FA meets its needs, but the Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted a better fighter. So HAL and Sukhoi negotiated an $8.63 billion deal to improve the PAK-FA with the IAF’s requirements of stealth (near-invisibility to radar), super-cruise (supersonic cruising speed), networking (real-time digital links with other battlefield systems) and airborne radar with world-beating range. In all, the IAF demanded some 50 improvements to the PAK-FA, including 360-degree radar and more powerful engines.

Defence ministry sources who played a direct role in negotiations with Russia say much of this money was earmarked for Indian production facilities for manufacturing 127 FGFAs, and for India’s work share in developing advanced avionics for the fighter. It also included the cost of four PAK-FA prototypes for IAF test pilots to fly.

Now, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has backed away from the FGFA because it argues the PAK-FA – which Sukhoi has been test-flying since January 2010 – is not stealthy enough for a fifth-generation combat aircraft.

Aerospace analysts who support the PAK-FA reject this argument. They point out that the US Air Force F-22 Raptor, was built with an extraordinary degree of stealth, but that proved to be counterproductive, since it resulted in high maintenance and life-cycle costs. Burned by that emphasis on stealth alone, US designers de-emphasized stealth while building their latest fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. Instead, they focused on building its combat edge through better sensors, highly networked avionics and superior long-range weapons.

The cancellation of the FGFA project has far-reaching implications for the IAF, for which this was once its high-tech future fighter. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) defence minister AK Antony had ruled out buying the F-35 Lightning II, arguing that India would have the FGFA to meet its fifth-generation fighter needs.

Indian aerospace designers also cited the FGFA experience as essential learning for developing the indigenous fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), which the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) is pursuing.

Now, the FGFA’s burial sets the stage for the IAF to eventually acquire the F-35 Lightning II, which comes in air force as well as naval variants.

Indian military aviation, once overwhelmingly dependent upon Russian fighters, helicopters and transport aircraft, has steadily increased its purchases from America. On Tuesday, appearing before a US Senate panel for his confirmation hearings, Admiral Philip Davidson – nominated as the top US military commander in the Indo-Pacific, said the US should aspire to “break down” India’s historical dependence upon Russia.

The IAF has been split down the middle on the FGFA. Broadly, flying branch officers of the “French school”– whose careers have centred on Mirage and Jaguar fighters – have tended to oppose the FGFA. Meanwhile, officers from the “Russian school”, their careers grounded in the MiG and Sukhoi fleet, have supported the FGFA.

Opponents of the FGFA have even argued that the project would duplicate and hinder the indigenous AMCA project. However, last July, an experts group headed by Air Marshal (Retired) S Varthaman, set up to consider this question, ruled that there were no conflict lines between the FGFA and AMCA. It stated that the technological expertise that would be gained from working with Russian experts would benefit the AMCA project.

In co-developing the FGFA, HAL was expected to deploy its experience in working with composite materials, which were to replace many of the metal fabricated panels on the PAK-FA. India was also expected to participate in designing the 360-degree active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. In addition, the experience of flight-testing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft would be refined by flight-testing a heavier, more complex fighter.

These challenges were expected to imbue Indian engineers with genuine design skills, of a far higher magnitude than the lessons learnt from licensed manufacture.


In addition, the FGFA’s foreclosure means the loss of $295 million that India sunk into its “preliminary design phase” between 2010-13.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

India finally fed up and gave up due to the attitude of Russia...
I think it is better choice and may help Tejas and AMCA immediately...
May be India can buy 36 FGFA or SU-57 when they are operationalized...

Russia is not sharing any technology or letting India even manufacture the spares for its legacy fighters of which we bought 1000+ Migs and 272 Sukhois...
Indian money bankrolled SU-30 and Mig-29K (which helped Mig-35) development but India did not gain any TOT or even respect deserved of best customer for manufacturing spares...

Perhaps, may be in time, Russia will realize what it had and lost it all for no reason...

Too sad to see it turn that way but India can use its hard currency for ammunition, bulletproof vests, rifles, anti-tank weapons, etc


Turkey gets better treatment by USA for F-35 and even Russia for S-400...

Anonymous said...

IAF needs to come down a tad from its high horse.

Unknown said...

At a reported steep price of 245 mil dollars FGFA is hardly worth buying combined with difficulties in supply of spare parts and maintainence..
With limited defence budget we can afford only F16, F18 superhornet at the most.
F35 is clearly not on offer as of now.
We should also spend our money on upgrading SU30MKIs and developing Tejas MK1A nd MK2 ..
Focus on future with allocation of funds to develop AMCA

Ajay Krishna said...

The scrapping of the FGFA PAK FA is a blunder. This is the second blunder of the NDA government after scrapping of the MMRCA deal. These 2 wrong decisions will now force India to be dependent on foreign fighter jets for the next 3-4 decades, as indigenous fighter jet development will take more time without transfer of technology from other countries. India should have gone ahead with the development of the PAK FA with Russia. This would have given India access to stealth & other critical technologies. India could then have further improved the PAK FA based on experience gained in the development of AMCA. India will now be dependent on the US F-35 for inducting a stealth fighter, as indigenous AMCA will take at least another decade to fly. The reduced stealth feature on the PAK FA was well compensated with better BVR missiles & maneuverability for dog fight. Unfortunately, the US is unlikely to transfer all the technologies of F-35, leading to further dependence on foreign countries. Unless the DRDO is able to develop the AMCA on a warfooting by 2030 & HAL able to start AMCA assembly by 2031, the IAF would end up facing PLAAF & PAF's 5th generation fighters with mostly 4.5 gen fighters, apart from the F-35. This will force India to be dependent on the US, which would definitely not allow successful development of AMCA, a challenger to F-35. However, since AMCA will be in the medium category, it would have not posed a direct threat PAK FA, which is in the heavy category. India would now be unable to establish air supremacy, let alone air superiority over China & Pakistan. The best option for India was to go ahead with the PAK FA & simultaneously induct few squadrons of F-35, preferably with ToT. This would have balanced the dependence on a single country. It also would have meant getting critical technologies from both Russia & the US. Most importantly, it would have plugged the shortfall in IAF's fighter jet fleet. India would definitely be able to afford both the fighter jets with a growing economy, especially having the 6th largest GDP in the world.

Tipoo said...

Good, frankly. Indias half of the development cost was lunacy to try to make the bones of the Su-57 into a worthy stealth fighter, when that would be 40-60 off the shelf F-35s. Even Rafales, since the Su-57s shaping only puts in the radar return range of Eurocanards, not American stealth.

VIKRAM PRASAD said...

So india will buy only Rafale F 16 and Tejas

Anonymous said...

Wait till govt. surrenders everything that exist to the US

Anonymous said...

India has done a wise job as neither SU 57 nor J 20 and J 31 are fifth generation planes . Shape is just one aspect of the fifth generation , and with third generation engines it cannot supercruise. I feel that would open the door for real fifth generation plane in India. The era of quoting one price then charging advance payment and then blackmailing and charging more and with very inferior product , with questionable engine that gives way well before the service time and buy all the spares from one particular agency and charging nine to eleven times the rates is speciality of Russians. The plane is a dud and it is wise shift in policy. S 400 system is also a dud and I feel India should work with Israel to devlop the system on their own. I feel Ka 226 equivalent can be desiegned in India in two years all they need is counter rotating transmission which the local company can desiegn with collaboration.

The media wrote a news Tejas devloped snags during the massive air excercise , well it does happen in all the planes but no one put importance to the fact it was fixed within twelve hours as it has a computer which tells you what is wrong and unlike few of the foreign fighters where you have read the manual in some foreign language and the order the part that takes months to arrive. It would be a good investment to pay upfront the suppliers of tejas parts to bump up the supply and make atleast 36-40 planes per year and have atleast 500 tejas planes in different form , I would Evan go with larger cranked delta version with 23 hard points with larger Ganga engine as MK 3 in medium fighter category.

TIMBAKTOO

Pierre Zorin said...

Those interested in the truth instead of fanciful narratives can read this below from PKS's take:Claim: The proposal for India and Russia to jointly develop an advanced fighter--the eponymous Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)--has been formally buried.
Reality: From the outset, there was NOTHING to co-develop. Russia had already frozen the design in the previous decade itself. Hence, it was always about substituting Russia-origin avionics like integrated EW suite & airborne data-links with India-origin ones.

Claim: They said India might possibly join the project later, or buy the fully developed fighter outright, after it entered service with the Russian Air Force. Much of this money was earmarked for Indian production facilities for manufacturing 127 FGFAs, and for India’s work share in developing advanced avionics for the fighter.
Reality: LoLz! If no one in the world has so far licence-built 4th-gen MRCAs, how can one even dream of setting up a second production line for 5th-gen MRCA? Sadly, this ‘lie’ about co-production was being peddled until now & there is no dearth of suckers who can wholeheartedly absorb such untruths simply because they have no respect for the laws of physics & economics. Even the option of buying FGFAs off-the-shelf from Russia is no longer valid because India would then have had to send its homegrown avionics subsystems (with appreciable foreign content) to Russia for systems integration (as was the case with Su-30MKI)—which is impossible now due to Western sanctions imposed on Russia. Hence, if FGFAs are reqd by the IAF, then they will have to come fully built-up & flightworthy from Russia with 100% Russian content.

Claim: Indian aerospace designers also cited the FGFA experience as essential learning for developing the indigenous fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), which the Defence R & D Organisation (DRDO) is pursuing.
Reality: Again, a totally WRONG ASSUMPTION. There was always ZERO Indian inputs WRT design of the FGFA’s airframe & avionics architecture.

Claim: Broadly, flying branch officers of the “French school”–whose careers have centred on Mirage and Jaguar fighters–have tended to oppose the FGFA. Meanwhile, officers from the “Russian school”, their careers grounded in the MiG and Sukhoi fleet, have supported the FGFA.
Reality: Total hogwash. The ere were no such opposing schools of thought & the IAF as a whole desired a fully-functional FGFA.

Claim: In co-developing the FGFA, HAL was expected to deploy its experience in working with composite materials, which were to replace many of the metal fabricated panels on the PAK-FA. India was also expected to participate in designing the 360-degree active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
Reality: A spectacularly outrageous ASSUMPTION of the ‘desi bandalbaaz’ that defies all known laws of physics. Airworthiness certification reqmts/imperatives of all-metal airframes are totally different from those built with composites, especially if the airframe’s centre-of-gravity is affected & the consequential radical changes in the flight-control logic of the FBW digital flight-control computer. Hence, if the metallic airframe parts are to be replaced with composites-built parts, then this will involve a brand new airworthiness certification & airframe fatigue testing regimen starting from scratch—a financially cost-prohibitive & time-consuming process that no one else in the world has attempted before.

Claim: In addition, the FGFA’s foreclosure means the loss of $295 million that India sunk into its “preliminary design phase” between 2010-13.
Reality: It is not a loss at all. Such expenses incurred can easily be adjusted against the off-the-shelf price quotes of 127 fully-built FGFAs to be supplied b y Russia, which is what will eventually happen.

Anonymous said...

So pleased to read this article. it was much needed decision for the following 7 reasons:
1.) IAF would have faced the same engine reliability and serviceability issues as in Su-30mki
2.) Russians are behind US and even China in Stealth and AESA radar technology
3.) Price quoted by them is huge and it was never clear how much tech transfer IAF and MoD can get in return
4.) There was speculation that work share would be 85:15 in the favour of russians so why should be pay 50%, it should have been proportional to what we can do
5.) we already have AMCA project and in no way IAF and MoD can afford 2 5th gen programs when they don't have budget for 4th gen programs
6.) HAL can now focus on LCA and cannot give excuses that they have huge workload!
7.) At the end of the day we need to see what we get in return and even JSF would give us access to better technology
now we must focus on completing LCA asap!!

godanov said...

FGFA good India was bing ripped off, and now maybe can concentrate on better options

Anonymous said...

A couple of weeks back IAF chief had stated that detecting a Chinese stealth aircraft was not an issue for us. IAF realised that stealth is more than shape and coatings, so maybe stage is being set new way of fighting air wars. The network centric warfare equipment can be locally developed.

I really hope all IAF fighters are able to carry locally built stand off weapons that are cheap enough and we develop bombing capable/AWAC drones. That alone can maintain IAF future air power. The ground support will also be increasingly played by 100s of LCH , a capability that dose not exist today.

The 42 squadron is an expensive dream. Hope the govt carries out a strategic review quickly.

Abhiman said...

An excellent decision by the IAF. From the very outset, the so-called FGFA was a farce to begin with.

1) It's much-touted co-development, as opposed to an outright purchase, were misnomers since the Russians already had a prototype flying. If they were really that serious about co-development, then Indian designers should've been invited as partners from the drawing-board, and not when the prototype has already taken to the skies !

2) It was clear that like the FGFA's design, India would have NIL engineering inputs in the radar, engines, weapon systems and much of the avionics. Only some avionics would merely be replaced by Indian ones, a la Su-30 MKI. However, this would've been be a futile exercise. The bare-bones Su-30, didn't have any proper avionics to speak of, and DRDO's innovations made it the fearful beast that it is. However, the PAK-FA's avionics are already top-notch and yanking them off with custom-avionics makes no sense.

3) Russia was merely banking on India to fund the project. All talk of co-development etc. was merely for public consumption.

Now, it can be hoped that the monies thus saved, can be fully deployed to the development of the indigenous AMCA. We've learnt a lot of lessons with the Tejas' development, and I'm sure the IAF, MoD and DRDO are much wiser now. If efforts are properly channeled, the AMCA can fly in a much shorter time frame than the sanction-prone and controversy-ridden Tejas.

We can even invite our IITs and the nascent private sector in the AMCA's development.

Go AMCA !

Anonymous said...

How did making MKI under so called deep license help LCA knowlege? How did making T-90 under deep license help arjun?

Sudip Das said...

@ Pierre Zorin: If India can license manufacture SU30MKI , WHY NOT FGFA, It is all about keeping India away from self reliance and selling fighter aircraft at a high premium

The present establishment makes a lot of noise for make in India as a step towards self reliance (which will not happen till 2022 , if at all it happens) but is doing everything to channelize fighter aircraft deals to the western world

Sudip Das said...

@Anonymous : If we could not learn from license manufacturing of SU 30 MKI and T90 , ITS OUR MISTAKE ? We should introspect and device systems to capture knowledge from license manufacturing

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

https://www.defensenews.com/industry/techwatch/2018/05/02/turkeys-fighter-jet-program-races-ahead-as-russian-firm-reveals-interest/

You can read it and understand how responsive Russia has been to Turkey on S-400, Turkish future fighter, etc
Russia is even willing to cooperate on everything - engine, radars, avionics, etc for joint development and technology sharing...

On the other hand, India was a true friend and ordered everything from USSR and Russia...

1. Almost 1000+ Migs and many of them are flying coffins and widowmakers...Russia forced India to import even smallest items in them...no technology transfer or local manufacturing...all screwdriver and bolting tech...

2. 272 Sukhois...but they are not even available at 50%...If Russia transferred TOT then it would not happen...

3. T-90, Smerch, An-32, Big Birds, Helicopters - even Mi-17s, etc

Now I want you to respond as to what India will get for FGFA...nothing just $ to Russia to develop it and make profit like they did on SU-30MKI, Mig-29K, etc

The best solution for Russia is to design, develop, and manufacture on 50:50 basis and make money and share 50:50 TOT...
This way Russia will not lose India...

My first suggestion is about SU-30MKI, Mig-29K, T-90S, etc TOT, joint manufacturing, and 50:50 future design and development, improvements, etc

It is not too late for Russia to change and treat India better than Turkey and behave like a true FRIEND...
Russia dies not have many friends ... as is true with India too...

Start the process by talking heart to heart and mind to mind...
Russia must REMEMBER that Pakistan is not its salvation...

Thank you...