India's fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) programme is streaking ahead of China's plans to sharpen the combat edge of its air force with the cutting-edge military platform.
Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday declared India would buy 250-300 co-produced fifth-generation fighters --- equivalent to the US Air Force's F-22 'Raptor' --- from Russia in an unparalleled military joint venture.
The air force hopes to induct the FGFA by 2017-18, making a quantum leap in air power. India is expected to fork out an estimated $30 billion (Rs 1,35,000 crore) towards inducting 300 fifth-generation fighters.
Pentagon estimates China's FGFA programme, led by Chengdu and Shenyang Aircraft Corporations, is unlikely to materialise before 2020.
"All issues pertaining to the FGFA programme have been discussed and resolved with Russia. The agreement is in its final stages and only some technical formalities need to be completed," Antony said after meeting his Russian counterpart A E Serdyukov.
The two countries agreed to speed up the modalities for the joint design, development and production of the FGFA at the 10th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.
The 30-tonne FGFA will be a swing-role fighter with extensive stealth features to increase survivability in combat, advanced avionics, smart weapons, top-end mission computers and 360-degree situational awareness.
Air force chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said the fighter aircraft would have supercruise ability, allowing it to fly at supersonic speeds for extended periods without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners. The FGFA will be based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA design.
Having signed a preliminary agreement of shareholders to jointly design and develop a multirole transport aircraft with Russia in September, Antony said India would buy 45 such co-produced planes.