Skip to content Skip to footer

Indian Air Force reportedly not keen on PAK-FA

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly urging New Delhi to withdraw from the PAK-FA – also designated Su-57 and Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) – next-generation fighter program, which is being developed in collaboration between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Sukhoi.

A senior IAF official told Defense News that the “IAF is not keen to continue with the program.” Some of the IAF’s concerns with the PAK-FA reportedly include insufficient reduction in radar cross-section (RCS), especially in comparison to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The PAK-FA is a collaborative effort between Russia’s various design bureaus, but spearheaded by Sukhoi, which saw relatively strong export success with its Su-30 Flanker-line in the 1990s and 2000s.

India was envisaged as the launch overseas customer of the PAK-FA/FGFA. However, the development of the PAK-FA has been tumultuous, namely in regards to Russia’s ability to demonstrate that it can produce the requisite technologies for 5th-generation fighters, such as electronic subsystems.

In July, IHS Jane’s reported that the Russian Aerospace Force (VKS) itself was uninterested in inducting the Su-57. The VKS is reportedly satisfied with the Su-35 Flanker-E.[1] Furthermore, the IAF had received limited assurance from United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in regards to requested design changes.[2]

There were also concerns regarding the PAK-FA’s next-generation turbofan engine, Project 30, which is to be 30% lighter than the AL-41F1 and more fuel efficient. Currently, the PAK-FA prototypes are flying with the AL-41F1. It is unclear when Project 30 will come to fruition.

The IAF could still be reeling from the unsatisfactory availability rate of its Su-30MKI fleet in the early-to-mid 2010s. Issues with the Su-30MKI’s powerplant and insufficient in-house maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capabilities, mainly due to insufficient access to timely spare parts from Russia, had caused the IAF Su-30MKI fleet’s operational availability rate to drop to less than 60% in 2015.

Though the two sides principally agreed to transfer the production of Su-30MKI spare parts to India, there have been snags in the implementation of the agreement. The Indian Ministry of Defence stated that UAC was reluctant to transfer the requisite technology to India’s private sector (Defense News).

HAL is confident that the FGFA will succeed, arguing that the depth of technology-transfer being offered to India under the PAK-FA is not available elsewhere.

“We are still hopeful. It is an opportunity for the industry as well as for the country. This is an opportunity for us to go in for this kind of (high) technology which has not been offered to us by any other country,” said HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju to the Economic Times.

The IAF Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Shirish Baban Deo echoed the HAL Chairman’s sentiments, stating “When it comes to technology transfer, Russia really offers everything they have from the heart without any strings attached.”

Notes & Comments:

India’s pursuit of an original 5th-generation fighter will be a long-term endeavour, even if India continues with the FGFA/PAK-FA. There an expedient avenue in requesting the F-35 from the U.S., though this will likely bar India from immediately accessing the Lightning II’s technologies. However, the F-35 would offer that substantive qualitative gain and next-generation airpower capability sooner than the FGFA. India can also look at tying the F-35 to technical support to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The other aspect to consider is the Rafale. In August, the IAF reportedly pushed for an additional 36 Rafales to augment the 36 currently on order. If the Su-30MKI fleet’s efficacy is in question (due to supply channel challenges with Russia), then it could be prudent to expand the Rafale fleet and fully capitalize upon its forthcoming qualitative gains, such as its long-range AESA radar, long-range air-to-air, stand-off strike capabilities and 75%+ guaranteed (by Dassault) operational rate. This can be had sooner than the FGFA.

It should be noted that the PAK-FA falling through does not necessitate an end to joint Indo-Russian work on a next-generation fighter. The IAF’s concerns could be simply be in regards to the PAK-FA specifically, though it is possible that Russian design and development assistance can still be sought for a new design. Both HAL and the IAF are of the view that in terms of next-generation technology development, India will not access more elsewhere than it would in Russia.

[1] Reuben Johnson. “Mission impossible: post-Soviet combat aircraft development.” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 19 July 2017. p23.

[2] Ibid.

Show CommentsClose Comments


  • by Faisal
    Posted October 24, 2017 12:28 am 0Likes

    72 Rafaels , along with 260+ SU-30, Mig 29s and Mirage 2000s will give IAF enough strength so they wont really miss 5th Generation fighter for a while. Pakistan on the other end, should not and must not get any american jet. They have been distracting us from sometime by offering carrot by offering us out dated versions of F-16s. Probably 10 years ago we ditched J-10 for the same reason. Let PAF invest with Chinese to find something next generation to JF-17.

  • by Faisal Jawaid
    Posted October 24, 2017 3:37 am 0Likes

    Why Pakistan think tanks,govt are so enthusiastic about buying hardware from Russia. we are witnessing issues faced by India despite paying upfront. I think we should sort out matters at foreign office end to get access to american or european hardware.

  • by Shershahsuri
    Posted October 24, 2017 7:18 am 0Likes

    At present Pakistan can focus on three areas. JF-17 Block 3, J-31 and TAI TFX with Turkey as a long term project. India with big defense budget has no problem to go to any venue—Russian, American or European. But Pakistan has to utilize it limited defense budget with utmost care.

  • by Mike
    Posted October 24, 2017 7:59 am 0Likes

    “which is being developed in collaboration between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Sukhoi.” this is a joke right? What could India ever contribute to this project. Indias contribution is the same amount as the arjun project, mainly non. its a outdated Leopard A4 with some low tech subsystems (10-15%). India is a third world country. This is how it goes: India says what it wants, russia develops it and India pays.
    as they did before with the brahmos I and II. Brahmos I is bascicly russian 90s tech redisigned for Idias needs with more than 90% of the parts including the fuel produced and delivered by russia…

  • by Karthik Sunder
    Posted October 24, 2017 8:27 am 0Likes

    And what is your source for all these claims?

    HAL is a government organisation with all the problems of a government organisation to go with it. 90:10 for defence equipment is still 10% of the development for a country riddled with a number of issues relating to poverty.

    In spite of all the hurdles, India has built the Tejas, the Mars Mangalyaan program, the cryogenic engine, the PSLV and its contribution to the success story in IT is well known.

    So if you feel this is a joke, please feel free to laugh on. India will rise and overcome her difficulties. Make in India might be a joke for now but India will have the last laugh if she continues to persevere in this path.

  • by Karthik Sunder
    Posted October 24, 2017 8:30 am 0Likes

    To be fair, the US allowed itself to be fooled by Pakistan all along.

    Not supporting the Pakistan claim of the US distracting Pakistan here, but one should think about how history could have been written, had Pakistan’s double-games been understood and handled in the early 90s itself.

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 24, 2017 8:39 am 0Likes

    Very true and nothing more , all indian indigenous programs failed like ARJUN MAIN BATTLE TANK, AKASH SAM SYSTEM , LAC , KAVERI are main examples india has money and preferred to buy off the shelf , foreign vendors develop and india pays .

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 24, 2017 8:51 am 0Likes

    Now China is only option to get technology better to develop local industry and engage retired PAF and ARMY technical personal with years of active service experince but not officers need to encourage and join hands with local industrial entities to develop and meet the future challenges now we need only workers not officers and bureaucrates specially in the field of ELECTRONIC , MECHANICAL , ARMAMENTS, ENGINE AND AERONAUTICS really they can do wonders

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 24, 2017 8:57 am 0Likes

    Brother europe is not willing to sell you any critical technology recently AMERICA stopped JORDAN SELLING used F16 to pakistan also cost is a big issue.

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 24, 2017 9:00 am 0Likes

    China is only option very true.

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 24, 2017 9:08 am 0Likes

    And what about american nukes you still lying under waters in the sea, by the way who wrote that articles you read before claiming attack on pakistani assets just exaggerating and barking against pakistani nuclear program more safe and reliable than any country in the world, go and read about INDIAN NUCLEAR SAFETY AND NUCLEAR DISASTERS.

  • by Mike
    Posted October 24, 2017 9:26 am 0Likes

    The Tejas is also a joke, much of its components are from Israel. See you in 50 years then, when India is finally considered as a second world country…

  • by Love One Another M
    Posted October 24, 2017 11:07 am 0Likes

    India has a long history of not so high work ethic and quality standards. Blaming it on all the Russians will not help them get better. Even if they get the best systems in the world if they keep walking their old ways, they will have low operational rates on all military complex systems requiring regular maintenance. Maintaining high tech is not easy, it takes quite a bit of time to acquire knowledge and master certain skills.

  • by Lasit
    Posted October 24, 2017 11:57 am 0Likes

    and some pakistanis claim the JF -17 as a pakistani defense project. My request to all those pakistanis to first start with a low skilled /tech Automobile company, then it will be more plausible for others to accept these BS.

    Meanwhile India contributes in Hard cash, something not everyone has.

    further to enlighten you, if ever the deal happens then HAL will get a 25 per cent share of design and development work in the FGFA programme. HAL’s work share will include critical software, including the mission computer (the Su-30MKI mission computer is entirely Indian); navigation systems; most of the cockpit displays; the counter measure dispensing (CMD) systems; and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat prototype into the twin-seat fighter that the Indian Air Force (IAF) wants.

  • by sam
    Posted October 24, 2017 1:05 pm 0Likes

    who told u this BS. according to 3 reports from State department, Pentagon and The Harvard Kennedy School report, indian nuclear arsenal is more in danger and less safe than pakistans.
    and do not forget there were 4 nuclear accidents in india since last 40 years from IAEA report. by pakistan faced none.
    well pakistani extremists could not touch it if even they tried but a terrorist and extremist in indian PM seat. what is more danger than that?

  • by bolokolotolo
    Posted October 24, 2017 1:46 pm 0Likes

    Su-30 MKI availability has increased to 70%.

  • by TZK
    Posted October 24, 2017 1:58 pm 0Likes

    USA, Pak relationship is difficult to understand but here is my summary. Pakistanis point to siding with USA during cold war and war on terror to the detriment of Pak. USA point to aid but that has been mostly military aid with a few military dictators thrown in too. However, Pak will not cede to US demands to normalise relations with India without settlement of outstanding territorial issues. USA sees India as a potential market and bulwark against China. Pak being the smaller nation is expected to make all the concessions. Most Indians on the street mistrust USA mainly because if its historic alliance with Pak.

  • by Faisal Jawaid
    Posted October 24, 2017 4:56 pm 0Likes

    You are right Ali. We need to spend limited budget wisely so we can utilize hardware in the hour of need. We should not end up with sitting ducks. We should sort out problems at foreign office to build better relationship with America and Europe. Egypt bought Rafael and Ships on loan from France.

  • by Karly Johnston
    Posted October 24, 2017 6:33 pm 0Likes

    Russia wants India to pay $6 billion just to have the right to buy it. That money would be better spent on more Rafale whose offsets feed into Tejas and AMCA development.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 24, 2017 7:06 pm 0Likes

    That’s nothing to be proud of. IAEA has been building it’s own nuclear power plants, whereas we don’t. We should focus on that first.

  • by Faisal
    Posted October 24, 2017 10:59 pm 0Likes

    This is a defence forum and we are talking about Airforce. They allowed limited US equipment to create dependency and also to kill many other programs PAF could have started.
    I dont know how the discussion of terrorism and nuclear arsenal found its way into this discussion. The article you read was from tabloid written by someone like you.

  • by Faisal
    Posted October 24, 2017 11:01 pm 0Likes

    This is not political forum. I am strictly talking about Airforce equipment. US continuously supplied hardware in small qualities (nothing cutting edge) to create dependency. That also successfully killed other intiatives PAF could have taken. Helllo… focus on Airforce please. Its not a drawing room discussion happening here. Its a proper defence forum.

  • by Faisal
    Posted October 24, 2017 11:46 pm 0Likes

    and they probably know that. That is why Dassault is going to maintain Rafael’s for them.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 25, 2017 1:50 am 0Likes

    It’s AECI not IAEA . Sorry.

  • by Tan
    Posted October 25, 2017 7:27 am 0Likes

    otherwise.. we will see IAF Rafaels crashing into the ground and that is BAD PRESS for the French….

  • by Tan
    Posted October 25, 2017 7:29 am 0Likes

    Why always talk about the Paks? Why the need to always compare with someone that is supposedly worse than your country? Why not compare with the supposedly better ones?
    Look inward into the shortcomings of your own country and improve from there onwards…

  • by Tan
    Posted October 25, 2017 7:32 am 0Likes

    China is helping and will always help the Paks…
    because they recognised the true strategic value of the Paks vis the Indians….#
    the division of British India into India and Pakistan is the greatest strategic mistake of the Indians…

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 25, 2017 9:05 am 0Likes

    Asurd claim of so-called indigenousTEJAS your air superiority 6 gen is at par with F22 is a comprising AMERICAN ENGINE, ISRAELI RADAR AND FRENCH DESIGNING and other western subsystems what is left only fuselage , and now take out the indigenous INDIAN percentage of TEJAS .

  • by ali amanat
    Posted October 25, 2017 9:10 am 0Likes

    Wait and see the fate of AMERICAN friendship and the lesson of history because you are not realistic go and read the history.

  • by MT
    Posted October 25, 2017 1:45 pm 0Likes

    Common mishaps as part of operational inefficiency isnt big security concern if you been following many stories Of USA nd Russian flounting live nukes in aircraft.
    Proliferation of nuke technology sold to rogue nations is what scares the west. World knows how Pakistan acquired the bomb and enrichment technology.

    You should search on comparative technology advancement for India and Pak. Pakistan lacks basic nuclear industry ecosystem and It continues to buy Chinese power nuclear reactors while India is manufacturing its own inhouse reactors for many decades.

  • by Lasit
    Posted October 25, 2017 2:37 pm 0Likes

    Well Tejas is solely developed to take care of any PAF fighter who can hypothetically survive fleets of Rafaels, Su 30MKI, MIG 29 and Mirage 2000E and come close to Indian assets. That scenario is very unlikely, so we are good with whatever Tejas has..

  • by Lasit
    Posted October 25, 2017 2:42 pm 0Likes

    The whole concept of Pakistan’s strategic value lasts as long as Pakistan can possess a credible that to Indians. But unfortunately, with every year, the gulf is getting bigger in terms of capabilities of these two nations. Soon Pakistan will be the same as Taiwan is to China, simply a nuesenc

  • by TZK
    Posted October 25, 2017 4:36 pm 0Likes

    I would not call a nuclear capable neighbour simply a nuisance. If you accept Chinese weapons technology is superior to India’s and will remain so then all China has to do is supply Pak with latest weapons and India will remain the worlds largest arms importer. It will need western weapons to maintain parity or a qualitative edge over both China and Pak.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 25, 2017 5:03 pm 0Likes

    Stop it Ali. You will be proved wrong by those Indians. Don’t you know that more than 75.5 percent of Tejas’s components are indigenous.
    Sarcasm intended.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 25, 2017 5:08 pm 0Likes

    Ali, I searched about what you said. I’m a little bit in disagreement with you coz there has been 0 fatalities due to nuclear disasters in India.

  • by RA
    Posted October 25, 2017 5:14 pm 0Likes

    Dream on!

  • by RA
    Posted October 25, 2017 5:19 pm 0Likes

    Because it did not face the same sanctions Pakistan did. India did not invent it’s own reactor technology. It got it from somewhere, while Pakistan could not. No big accomplishment there to crow about.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 25, 2017 9:11 pm 0Likes

    I read somewhere that the report of FGFA were confidential, that was said by the Air Marshall himself.

  • by MT
    Posted October 25, 2017 11:25 pm 0Likes

    Pakistan were never sanctioned until late 90s once it tested it’s bomb while India been sanctioned right since 1974.

    Npt was formed after indian test

  • by Lasit
    Posted October 26, 2017 7:56 am 0Likes

    well that same simple logic also applies against the equation between CHina and US. what US has to simply do is to support countries like Japan, S Korea and India with a counter to anything chinese are going to build and china will be in the cycle of perpetual catching up against the US

  • by TZK
    Posted October 26, 2017 1:23 pm 0Likes

    Would you rather sell or help someone make things themselves! USA will not do anything to harm their own interests and at present they have enough power to counter China on their own and I do not see that changing in the foreseeable future

  • by Karthik Sunder
    Posted October 26, 2017 3:45 pm 0Likes

    50 years – I doubt if you would be around that time. Would be a good idea to learn to spell words like “basic” before articulating your thoughts in public forums.

    I quote M.G when it comes to dealing with people like you – “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    We need people like you to goad us further Mikey 😉 Keep laughing.

  • by ahmria
    Posted October 27, 2017 2:23 am 0Likes

    Egypt didn’t buy the Rafale and ships. Saudi Arabia gave Egypt most of the money to buy the LPDs, Fremm frigate and rafales. The Egyptians paid for the rest with loans but the principal donor is Saudi Arabia who expect to have Egypt back them in any military adventure against Iran or other regional threats.

  • by ahmria
    Posted October 27, 2017 2:31 am 0Likes

    If Indian reactors are so great why are they not exporting them like others nuclear reactor producing nations?

  • by ahmria
    Posted October 27, 2017 2:32 am 0Likes

    Also the India has benefitted from access to American civilian reactor technology something the Americans have refused to give to Pakistan.

  • by MT
    Posted October 27, 2017 4:31 am 0Likes

    7 Su30 crashes out of fleet for 260 now compare it with your jf17 which doesn’t even have decent flying hour’s/yr

  • by MT
    Posted October 27, 2017 4:34 am 0Likes

    India r&d is coming up in most sectors and industries. Google no of patent ,papers published and rank of innovative index.
    Pak is ranked 120s and india is ranked pretty high .

    India have far skilled technology sector so india fills up the gaps with indigenous manufacturing so gap between India and China would reduce in 10-15yrs

    But it’s Pak who continue to rely on Chinese imports and assembly with negligible r&d presence.

    Moreover china only sells old generation weapon to pak like frigate without VLS and jf17

  • by MT
    Posted October 27, 2017 7:20 am 0Likes

    India isn’t member of NPT
    Partial not waiver only helps india procure technology, raw materials but it doesn’t permit indian export of IAEA compliant reactors.

    The main reason for india seeking Full NPT membership is about Indians being allowed to sell it’s own fabricated parts nd reactors

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 27, 2017 7:50 am 0Likes

    Actually they are. I read somewhere that Indians are developing a nuclear reactor in Bangladesh.

  • by Mohammed
    Posted October 27, 2017 7:53 am 0Likes

    I thought America had not given them the tech till date. I read that in an Indian defense site. It said that USA did not build any civil nuclear plant or give any tech. Just signed a contract that never came to work.

  • by MT
    Posted October 27, 2017 9:18 am 0Likes

    The only benefit from the 2008 hyde act and 123 agreement is open access to uranium which india needs to run 24+ odd indigenous reactors for producing civil energy. All of these reactors are regulated under IAEA

    You must have done some search before you comment. American gave the waiver to India so that Indian can buy their reactors and build its own reactors with uranium imported from open market.

    There is no question of any pvt sector US, western or any french company sharing nuclear technology until you invest 50 bill$ and buy them out.

  • by Joseph
    Posted October 28, 2017 12:37 pm 0Likes

    It looks like the availability of F-35 to India is conditioned on large volume purchase of F-16, according to this:

  • by bolokolotolo
    Posted October 28, 2017 1:27 pm 0Likes

    IAF fighter jet accident rate is far lower than PAF fighter jet accident rate.

Leave a comment