State-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) today strongly pitched for going ahead with the fifth-generation fighter jet project with Russia, though the Indian Air Force is understood to have reservations over it.
HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju said the multi-billion dollar co-development project with Russia will be an opportunity as no country has ever offered such critical technology to India.
“We are still hopeful. It is an opportunity for the industry as well as for the country. This is an opportunity for us to go in for this kind of (high) technology which has not been offered to us by any other country (except Russia),” he said.
According to official sources, the IAF is not very keen to pursue the project in view of the high cost.
Asked about IAF’s reservations about the project, Raju did not give a direct reply and insisted that it would help India’s aerospace sector to a great extent.
“The impact of the project will be very positive. FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) is my dream, I am hopeful about it,” Raju told reporters on the sidelines of an event.
He said it will take three years for the first FGFA to fly from the day the government gives the go ahead to the project.
A high-level committee set up by the government to examine various aspects of the project has recently submitted its report and the defence ministry is likely to take a call on it soon.
In 2007, India and Russia had inked an inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project.
In December 2010, India had agreed to pay USD 295 million (Rs 1,897 crore) towards the preliminary design of the fighter, which is called in India as the ‘Perspective Multi- role Fighter’.
However, the negotiations faced various hurdles in the subsequent years.
In February last year, India and Russia revived talks on the project after a clearance from the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Raju also said that HAL was looking at utilising the Sukhoi manufacturing facility for carrying out maintenance of the fleet as well as there is no future order for the jet.
On the Indo-Russian joint venture to produce 200 Kamov light weight multi-role military helicopters, he said things are moving fast and that a request for quotation (RFQ) is likely to be issued by the government soon.
In October last year, India and Russia had finalised a broad agreement for a joint venture between HAL and two Russian defence majors.
India is procuring Kamov choppers to replace its ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
Sixty Kamov-226T helicopters will be supplied to India in fly-away condition, while 140 will be manufactured in India.
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