The head of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik attended a flight demonstration of the newest Russian fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi T-50 (PKA FA) at Gromov Flight Research Institute at the city of Zhukovsky near Moscow. The demonstration also included a flight of the modernized MiG-29UPG, an upgraded version destined for teh Indian Air Force, to introduce an avionics suite common with the MiG29K/KUB carrier-based fighters India is buying for its aircraft carriers. The Indian Air Force commander was hosted by Mikhail Pogosyan, President of the United Aircraft Corporation, General Director of Sukhoi and RSK MiG, and representatives of the Russian arms export conglomerate Rosoboronexport.

The second prototype of the Sukhoi T-50 takes off on its maiden flight, March 3, 2011 at Komsomolsk - on - Amur. Photo: Sukhoi.

India and Russia are cooperating in the development of a 5th generation fighter under the ‘Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft’ (FGFA) program, to be based on the T-50, to be the largest cooperative project undertaken by the two countries. The cooperation agreement was signed on 18 October 2007 in Moscow and reiterated in December 2010, during the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India. Under the FGFA program, Rosoboronexport company, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Sukhoi signed the development agreement, covering the design, development, and necessary production engineering preparing for manufacturing of the aircraft in both countries.

The modernization of MiK-29 for the Indian Air Force is ongoing since March 2008. The first 6 aircraft are undergoing overhaul and modernization at the RSK MiG facilities. “More than 90% of aircraft will be finalized in India on one of the Indian Air Force repair facilities, using kits supplied from Russia” Pogosian said. These modernized MiG-29 will be equipped with an advanced avionics, common with the avionics provided for the naval version MiG-29K/KUB ordered by the Indian Navy.

The modernized MiG-29UPG avionics suite selected for the indian upgrade includes a unique cllection of systems provided by Russian, Indian French and probably Israeli suppliers, enabling the new aircraft to integrate with the Indian air defense command and control network and operate specific weapon systems. The Indian avionics suppliers mentioned by the official announcement include HAL and Bharat Electronics Ltd. Names of the French suppliers or identity of Russian or Israeli companies was not available.  Delivery of the first upgraded aircraft to the customer in 2011.

The visit was first high level interaction between Russian and Indian officials after Russia lost the race for the IAF’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) last month.

Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) is to provide the baseline for India's 5th generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program, to be developed under cooperation between India and Russia. Photo: Irkut.
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