Indian Air Force finds Su-57 inferior to F-22 and F-35
(Written by Gagandeep Singh)
A leading daily of India reported today that Indian Air Force finds Su-57 inferior to F-22 and F-35.
IAF is not in favour of continuation of the FGFA programme with Russia based on T-50. It believes it shall be saddled with an inferior product unless major changes are made to the overall design and engines of the aircraft.
Some higher functionaries in the Indian government though still support the continuation of programme, but Indian Defence Ministry finds the FGFA programme incredibly costly with a contract value of $ 4 billion.
The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project between Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is more than a decade old. India initially committed 100 million dollars to the programme and proposed a number of requirements for the final model. New Delhi aimed for a minimum of 108 units of FGFA.
But of late, IAF is having reservations with the degree of low observability of Su-57. Another major shortcoming cited is lack of ‘modular engine’ concept. According to Indian officials this makes maintenance and serviceability of the aircrafts highly problematic, given the less than satisfactory experience that India has had with regards to serviceability and maintenance of the existing fleet of Russian-origin aircrafts.
Incidentally, Moscow itself had curtailed its initial order of 150 FGFA to just a dozen odd aircrafts. This means that per unit cost of Su-57 and cost of spares needed over its lifetime would shoot up even if it is now modified.
Now Indian Defence Minister is due to visit Russia in the coming weeks. While deal for S-400 Triumph anti-missile system is on the cards, Indian government has categorically refused to commit anything on the FGFA programme.
On the other hand, Super Hornet – F-18 E/F Block III further customised for India’s requirements, is becoming a front runner to bag the multi-billion dollar deal for well over a hundred aircrafts. Recently Indian government specifically advised IAF to consider Super Hornet among other aircrats in the competition. Indian Navy alone purportedly needs 57 aircrafts that will fly from catapult equipped aircraft carrier as well as the ski jump carrier it has now, with another currently under construction.
In fact, the cozying up of the relation between USA and India may draw final nail in the FGFA programme and rather eventually equip the Indian Air Force with F-35. But USA has insisted that any project for the fifth generation fighter can only be undertaken post the culmination of India’s pending mega deal for aircrafts in the Super Hornet class.