India and Russia on Tuesday finalised a contract for the biggest defence programme in the country's history — a $30-billion (Rs 1,35,000-crore) project involving the joint production of 200-250 fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). The aircraft, being called the perspective multi-role fighter (PMF), will exploit the basic design of the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA prototype, with modifications thrown in to meet the Indian Air Force's "more stringent specifications".
The 30-tonne aircraft will be a swing-role fighter with stealth features for increased survivability, advanced avionics, smart weapons, top-end mission computers and 360-degree situational awareness.
What will put the co-produced fighter in a different league is its ability to supercruise, i.e. sustain supersonic speeds in combat configuration without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners. Currently, the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor is the only fighter in the world that can supercruise.
The contract for the joint design and development of the FGFA was signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and two Russian firsm, Sukhoi Design Bureau and Rosoboronexport. The fighter will be jointly marketed to international air forces. The first prototype flew its maiden sortie in January 2010 and has conducted more than 40 flights. The IAF hopes to induct it by 2018.
A joint statement issued by the ministry of external affairs said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed that the December 2009 pact covering bilateral military cooperation during the next decade would lead to a more substantive engagement cutting across joint research and development, manufacturing and marketing activities.
The two sides asked Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice. They said that countries aiding or sheltering terrorists were as guilty of acts of terrorism as their actual perpetrators.
The two nations also agreed to reinforce bilateral defence ties by stepping up joint military exercises.