Chinese experts explain why India and Russia jointly develop FGFA

FGFA fighter promise to be a big step forward for Indian Air Force. Source:

FGFA fighter promise to be a big step forward for Indian Air Force. Source:

Chinese television asks Chang Hu, the editor of a military magazine, and his colleague about Indo-Russian cooperation in military aviation

Russia has announced its priorities for the export of arms where India is the key priority. Currently, Russia and India are jointly developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). Recently, the Indian Air Force reported the plans to purchase more than 200 FGFA fighters. 

On October 8, the Indian Air Force organized an exhibition and demonstration flights at the base near New Delhi to celebrate the 79th anniversary of the national Air Force. It was announced that the Air Force would buy 214 FGFAs, including 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat models. The twin-seat fighters will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Chang Hu, the editor of a military magazine, and his colleague were invited to the studio of the Chinese television CCTV. They answered a number of questions.

What is the FGFA fighter?

It should be a fighter developed in line with the highest world standards. India’s technological base is very weak, therefore Russia would do the bulk of this work. Russia has already developed a prototype aircraft (the T-50 project), which is undergoing flight tests.

Then why can’t Russia sell these fighters to India? Why do they need this joint development?

In fact, the T-50 is still under development. Russia showed the fighter at the MAKS 2011 air show. It was clear that the aircraft’s design is "rough" with a lot of seams and joints. India’s participation can cover a significant share of funding for this project. Currently, India has to make the choice between the two European fighters - Typhoon or Rafale – to buy 126 fighters for the Air Force. Given the difficult economic situation in Europe, India can succeed in  "extorting" technologies. For example, these aircrafts have very good avionics and India can become a "consolidator" of European and Russian technologies in the FGFA project.

According to the Indian Air Force, the country hopes to get this fighter as early as 2017, that is, it would take only six years to develop it.

In fact, the entire technological platform of this aircraft will be developed in Russia. However, the T-50 is rather a technology demonstrator and it will take a lot of time to get the real fighter. The Russian Air Force reported this fighter would be adopted in 2015, which is hard to believe. Moreover, if the Indian Air Force gets this fighter in 2017 then India can adopt it even faster that the Russian Air Force. Probably, India will be the second test site for the T-50.

It is known that the USA does not export the F-22, then why does Russia allow another country access to the latest technologies?

I think the first reason is that India poses no threat to Russia. Second, this aircraft’s design is still far from the desired level. The T-50 has on-board equipment but a lot has still to be created, for example, a digital data bus similar to the American 1553B. Russia lags behind in this area but France can share a similar technology with India if the Rafale fighter wins the tender.

So, India can consolidate the French and Russian military technologies in the new fighter. India has a special way of military thinking – it wants to get ready-made products not bothering to develop new ones.

But India will again be dependent on foreign technology ...

I think the participation in the development of modern aircraft would be useful for India since the country needs designing experience. The FGFA project is a rare opportunity to gain experience in this field.

So, can India become the owner of the latest technology?

Yes. It will be a big step forward. India will be one of the few countries in the world with its own fifth-generation fighter.

If all goes as planned, can India surpass the US in the number of heavy fifth-generation fighters?

That’s true.

How will this factor affect the situation in the Asia-Pacific?

India has approved the 11th five-year plan, during which 214 fifth-generation fighters must be adopted. In fact, everything depends on the Indian Air Force funding.

But this period is too short to produce so many fighters. 

That’s right. 


Another question. Today, India can purchase military systems from Western countries including the United States. But Russian weapons still account for 70% of India’s military arsenal. Why does India continue to prefer Russian weapons?

First, it is because of the relative cheapness of Russian military hardware and equipment. Second, Russia is willing to transfer much more technology than Western countries. India uses this situation to diversify arms purchases thus achieving greater independence in the sources of weapons. For example, India buys the C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft in the United States.

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