India pushing full steam ahead on stealth fighter plane project

India is pushing full steam ahead on its plan to build an indigenous stealth fighter plane amid an uncertainty surrounding the proposed India-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), a top government official said on Friday.

While the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) is still on the drawing board, doubts over the multi-billion dollar programme to develop the stealth fighter with the Russians appears to have lent fresh urgency to the AMCA project. Only the US, Russia and China have such programmes.

The first prototype could be built in 10 to 12 years if all goes according to the Aeronautical Development Agency’s plan, government sources said.

“If the FGFA project doesn’t work out for some reason, the AMCA could be a good alternative. However, that would be a long term plan as production will begin only around 2035-37,” a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officer said.

A three-member government committee is all set to submit its report on the viability of the FGFA programme. The panel was set up 3 months ago.

India plans to cooperate with foreign military contractors on the AMCA project but no decision has been taken so far. European and American firms have offered technical consultancy for the stealth fighter programme.

Sources said India has also conveyed to Russia that the FGFA project should bring in technology that benefits the proposed Indian programme.

The sources said ADA was in discussions with companies such as Dassault Aviation and Boeing for the project but it would be premature to comment on who the foreign collaborator could be.

“It’s too early to even speculate about that as we have not even tested the AMCA airframe. That’s still around a year away. So all options are open,” the sources said.

The IAF has 33 fighter squadrons compared to an optimum strength of 42. It is hoping to beef up its combat potential with the induction of the Tejas light combat aircraft, more Sukhoi-30s, Rafale jets, the FGFA and a medium-weight fighter that could be built in India in collaboration with a foreign vendor.




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