Indo-Russian G5 Fighter Agreement in Sight

In an interview to us (the Indian media delegation at the MAKS 07 air show) on August 23, MiG chief and designated chairman of the UAC Alexey Fedorov, said that the formal bilateral agreement in which India joins the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth generation fighter programme will be signed "very soon". And no, this isn't another RfP-style chimera. In fact, the draft will be finalised when Defence Minister AK Antony visits Moscow in October and is almost certain to be concluded by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he follows with a visit shortly thereafter.

Russia's Pravda says that reports that construction of a pre-production model (prototype?) will begin shortly, after the design bureau has completed and attested its design phase. That means the design phase is through without any Indian involvement. Was it shown to India before the State Arms Programme in Moscow approved movement off the drawing board? Then there's the other side -- what kind of design inputs would the IAF have anyway, considering the utter mismatch as far as design experience goes when comparing Russia and India. A Group Captain who was at the MAKS 07 air show along with the Vice Chief (Air Marshal BN "Bingo" Gokhale") told me that the IAF hadn't been called upon to participate at any point in the design phase, but was not particularly disturbed about that.

Russia's first Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov also announced (once again) while we were in Moscow that the PAK-FA would take to the skies for the first time in summer of 2008. So all those moaning about the inexorable thrust towards sending our money bounding out in all directions for stuff we're going to have absolutely no contribution in, weep. The money we're going to be pouring into the PAK-FA programme is going to be seriously tidy, unless of course the Americans/Swadeshis manage to derail it in favour of non-security cooperation partnerships on the F-35 (read, shut up and buy), or the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA). With the LCA's recent sea-level horror off Arrakonam, we should be seriously worried about what the MCA will bring us, if ever the government gets around to approving it. Either way, at that time, we'll still be paying tidy little instalments towards this nice big clutch of 4+Gen fighters we'll soon be ordering.

Sometimes I just wish things would happen really fast so I could see what happens next. Everything's just numbing now. By the way, those artist's impression pix of the PAK-FA are embarassing. One of them looks like a Tomcat with fat intakes, and the more popular one looks like an inflated Raptor with a berkut nose. Let's hope the PAK-FA looks like neither.

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