Saturday, August 20, 2011

India's inches closer to its stealth fighter

Russia on Wednesday lifted the curtains on its Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter, the platform on which India's fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) will be based. In a major leap forward for the Indian Air Force's FGFA programme, a T-50 prototype blazed through the skies at the MAKS 2011 international airshow outside Moscow --- the stealth jet's first public appearance.

The Russian air force is expected to kick off induction of its version of the stealth fighter in 2016.

India and Russia are jointly designing and developing the FGFA at a cost of $35 billion (Rs 1,57,500 crore), the biggest military programme in the country's history.

India plans to have a fleet of 250-300 co-produced fifth-generation fighters ---equivalent to the US Air Force’s F-22 ‘Raptor’. The IAF hopes to begin inducting the FGFA in 2018. China’s J-20 stealth fighter project is unlikely to materialise before 2020.

The 30-tonne FGFA will be a swing-role fighter with stealth features, advanced avionics, smart weapons, top-end mission computers and 360-degree situational awareness. The fighter will also have supercruise ability, allowing it to fly at supersonic speeds without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners.

Two T-50 prototypes have flown 80 test sorties since January 2010. The prototypes have been used to expand the fighter’s flight envelope. A third prototype will begin flight trials by the year-end for mission systems testing.

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