India, Russia to ink pact for developing fighters

India and Russia will sign a pact to jointly develop an advanced fifth generation fighter aircraft during Defence Minister A K Antony's Moscow visit next week. While negotiations on the project have been on for several years, India announced its intent to go in for Sukhoi's PAK-FA fighter earlier this year. Both the sides have since been busy with technical negotiations to prepare a formal draft on the deal.

"An agreement will be signed during the visit but price negotiations and Intellectual Property Rights issues will be sorted out at a later stage," a Defence Ministry official said.

Antony is scheduled to visit Moscow from October 19 for the Indo-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.

The multi-billion-dollar deal will be the largest joint development programme in the military sphere between the two countries. India is looking for a next generation stealth fighter to match and exceed the capabilities of F 22 Raptor already in service with the USA and the JSF 3 being jointly developed by the US and the UK.

In January, Russia promised that a prototype of the PAK-FA would take its first flight in early 2009. However, the IAF believes it will take close to a decade before the first fighter would be ready for induction.

Air Chief F H Major confirmed that the IAF has finalised the technical requirements of the desired fifth generation aircraft. "The air staff requirements for the fifth generation fighters have been made. It will take five years for development and it will be 8-10 years before the first fighter takes to the skies," he said.

While the Sukhoi Design Bureau has already finalised the basic design and features of the aircraft, India is hoping to contribute to the programme and gain some valuable expertise for its DRDO scientists.

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