It seems that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not in favour of acquiring the 127 fifth-generation fighter aircraft from Russia due to the “very high cost” involved in the project. It in turn wants to back a DRDO Make in India project – which it is planning to develop a similar plane called Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
It is learnt that IAF’s views on the aircraft programme have been conveyed to the defence ministry even as a government panel has expressed its views in favour of the programme.
“The Air Force has its reservations on the programme mainly on three points. First, the project cost is too high and way beyond what it had expected. The learning curve is not there as the project is already at an advanced stage and the stealth technology of the planes is not as advanced as that of the other similar planes,” senior government sources told Mail Today.
MAINTENANCE COST VERY HIGH: IAF
The maintenance cost of the planes is also expected to be very high and similar to that of the Sukhoi-30 planes whose maintenance and upkeep has been quite demanding in their around 20 years in the force, they said.
The Russians were developing the aircraft known as PAKFA on their side as a counter to the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightening, which are considered the latest combat planes with stealth technologies and abilities to strike farther than their older counterparts.
“The cost of the FGFA progarmme is coming to be huge. While we have already spent close to $300 million (Rs 2,000 crore) on the preliminary design phase, the Russians are demanding $6.7 billion (Rs 44,800 crore) as the development cost of the planes which is coming to be much higher than what we had perceived,” the sources revealed.
AIR MARSHAL SAYS OTHERWISE
“The Russians are asking us to make big investments in the programme. While we are planning to induct only 12 of these planes in their IAF, they are asking India to buy 127 of these aircraft,” added the sources.
Sources said the investment of $6.7 billion (Rs 44,800 crore) would give India only four prototypes of the FGFA aircraft and it will have to pay another $135 million (Rs 900 crore) each for the 127 planes, which would be ready for induction only after 2027-28.
The cost per aircraft at the time of delivery in 2027-28, due to high inflation in defence deals, would come around $250 million bringing the total project value to around $32 billion (Rs 2 lakh crore), sources also said.
Air Marshal S Varthman committee has recommended that the IAF should go ahead to coproduce the planes with Russia and the Defence ministry has to decide on it taking into account both the viewpoints.
By: India Today
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