India To Get 250 Stealth Fighters

India will eventually spend over $25 billion to induct 250 advancedstealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), on way to beingco-developed with Russia, in what will be the country's biggest-everdefence project.

With a potent mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruisingability, long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities,each FGFA will cost upwards of Rs 450 crore or around $100 million.

This will be in addition to the huge investment to be made inco-developing FGFA with cash-strapped Russia, as also the hugeinfrastructure required to base, operate and maintain such jets inIndia.

"We are looking to induct 200 to 250 FGFA in phases from 2017onwards,'' confirmed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik on Monday. Asreported by TOI earlier, New Delhi and Moscow are looking to ink theFGFA preliminary design contract when Russian President Dmitry Medvedevcomes visiting here in December.

Under intense negotiations for the last four-five years, the FGFAproject will also figure in the talks between defence minister A KAntony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on October 8.

Though the Indian FGFA will based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA,which flew for the first time this January at the Komsomolsk-on-Amurfacility in Siberia, it will be built to IAF's specifications. It'salready being touted as superior to the American F/A-22 `Raptor', theworld's only operational FGFA as of now.

ACM Naik said the 30-tonne FGFA will be a "swing-role fighter, withvery advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability, enhancedlethality, 360 degree situational awareness, smart weapons, data-links,high-end mission computers'' and the like.

Along with 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, which India plans toacquire in a $10.4 billion project, 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted fromRussia for around $12 billion and 120 indigenous Tejas Light CombatAircraft, the FGFA will be the mainstay of India's air combat fleet forthe foreseeable future.

Even as the Army revises its war doctrine to factor in the worst-casescenario of a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China, isIAF also preparing for the same?

"Our modernisation plans are based on the four pillars of `see, reach,hit and protect'...We prepare for a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional,multi-front war,'' said ACM Naik.

"But our approach is capability-based, not adversary-specific. Ourmodernisation drive is in tune with our nation's aspirations,'' hesaid, adding that India's strategic interests stretched "from HormuzStrait to Malacca Strait and beyond''.

To a volley of questions on China and Pakistan, IAF chief said, "Allneighbours, from the smallest to the largest, have to be watched withcaution...Their capabilities have to be assessed...Anything that canupset the growth of our nation is a matter of concern.''

With the new planned inductions in the pipeline, IAF's obsolescencerate will come down to 20% by 2014-15 from the current 50% or so. "Butthis does not mean that we are not fully capable of defending thecountry from any air or space threat at the moment...We are,'' said ACMNaik.

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