On Tuesday afternoon, if there are no last-minute hitches (last heard, there are none), India and Russia will sign their largest, most expensive and ambitious defence agreement ever. The agreement will formalise the effort to co-develop and build what has come to simply be known as the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), specifically a twin-seat derivative of the Sukhoi PAK FA, currently under prototype flight as the T-50 (photo).
The agreement, expected to enshrine a deal valued at nearly $30-billion, will be signed between Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) on behalf of the Russian government and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd on behalf of the Indian Ministry of Defence.
For all the talk we've had of the strategic and/or political implications of choosing any one of the six platforms competing for India's medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition, it simply pales in comparison to the scope of the FGFA programme and what it signifies both politically and otherwise. For all the talk we've had of India moving away from the Russians and looking to the west in a substantive way for the first time, the FGFA deal this week is, for some reason, like a huge monster tapping you on the shoulder, reminding you of what's real. Forget the MiG-35.
President Dmitri Medvedev will also oversee the signing of a deal for 42 more Su-30MKIs and a joint venture agreement for the multirole transport aircraft (MRTA) on Tuesday. Stay tuned for lots of updates.