Sukhoi T-50
Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA jet fighter lands after a demonstration flight at the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Moscow. (File Image)Reuters

Notwithstanding the dwindling fighter jet fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to opt for fewer Russia-built advanced stealth fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

IAF is currently looking at only 65 aircraft, with 18 each for three squadrons and the rest for training. FGFA is based on the T-50 aircraft under the Russian PAK-FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) programme that will challenge F-22 Raptor of the US. This is also the first aircraft that Russia has designed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Tribune reported that IAF will reduce their order by half to 65 from 127 FGFAs as part of the Indo-Russian collaboration. This indicates IAF wants to trim its military imports and reduce expenditure. Each aircraft costs $100 million (Rs 650 crore).

The report further said that New Delhi was pushing for an off-the-shelf deal with Moscow so as to get the aircraft quicker. The research to improve the aircraft is expected to go on simultaneously. A long-term development R&D contract for the jets, worth $11billion is pending for approval.

India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar had recently clarified that the preliminary design stage of the FGFA programme had been completed in 2013 and Rs 1,483.15 crore had been spent on it.

The government had mandated a 750 fighter jet fleet in the eventuality of two attacks from Pakistan and China. But at present, the number is just 576.

The Narendra Modi-led government is looking to cut down military exports and boost production of military equipment via his "Make in India" campaign.

New Delhi announced that it will be getting 36 Dassault's Rafales from the French in fly-away as part of a deal struck between Modi and Francois Hollande, who was France's President when the Indian PM visited Paris in April.

The government has officially withdrawn the MMRCA tender for 126 combat aircraft, following talks between Paris and New Delhi for the purchase of Rafale in a government-to-government deal. The Indian defence ministry has appointed a cost negotiation committee that is in talks with its French side to bring the deal to a signatory stage.

Previous reports had suggested that New Delhi might either make additional orders of Sukhoi Su-30MKI or an increased number of Rafales.

The reports have also suggested the BAE Systems is still willing to provide New Delhi with its Eurofighter Typhoon and is also ready to slash its price. SAAB, the maker of Gripen fighter jets, is also willing to come onboard.

With the delay in HAL's LCA Tejas MK 1 getting Final Operational Clearance (FOC), the defence ministry is scouting for all options at its disposal.

Russian media