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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another Deal - But This Time Probably Costly and Troublesome

Russia-India cooperation was probably at it's peak when a join team worked on Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. This was just a few years ago. India provided much of the money for R&D, which the crumbing Russian defence contractors couldn't afford, and learned a lot from Russians about designing and manufacturing advanced cruise missiles. The project may even be a money maker with a projected interest for 1000 missiles over the next decade by various countries. And India had spin off benefits with the newly developed air-launched supersonic cruise missile and, probably, Sagarika - potential submarine launched cruise missile, part of the triad.

But now India is going to sign another deal with Russia after vacillating for years with Congress I rejecting or disowning pretty much every defence proposal that BJP started but hadn't paid for before leaving office. This time to develop and manufacture the 5th generation fighter plane PAK-FA that apparently is on par with F 22A Raptor, the most advanced American fighter plane, and JSF 35, a US-British joint plane. India still expects to pay a lot of money for R&D and learn a lot about advance fighter plane design and manufacturing (and unlearn LCA development mistakes). But the Russians are playing another game. They want the money but want to use the existing advanced fighter jet design and get to work making it. I can just see trouble ahead with this whole project.

Here is how both sides are talking past each other:

In January, Russia promised that a prototype of the PAK-FA would take its first flight in early 2009. However, the IAF believes it will take close to a decade before the first fighter would be ready for induction.

Air Chief F H Major confirmed that the IAF has finalised the technical requirements of the desired fifth generation aircraft. “The air staff requirements for the fifth generation fighters have been made. It will take five years for development and it will be 8-10 years before the first fighter takes to the skies,” he said.

While the Sukhoi Design Bureau has already finalised the basic design and features of the aircraft, India is hoping to contribute to the programme and gain some valuable expertise for its DRDO scientists. [India, Russia to ink pact for developing fighters - IE]

In Yelstin's Russia, may be our guys could've pull it off, but in Putin's Russia, I doubt Indian engineers will learn much from this co-development venture. It's highly unlikely we'll get our money's worth from this project.