For starters, the committee meeting yesterday has agreed to expedite the conversion of the existing Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) on joint development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft into a formal General Agreement (GA). Interestingly, HAL chairman AK Baweja points out that two separate prototypes with common minimum technology will be developed — one by Russia (designated the Sukhoi T-50) and a separate one by India (designated FGFA for now). While the Russian aircraft will be a single-seater, the Indian FGFA will be a twin seater, but not a trainer version of the Russian counterpart. Baweja explained that as per IAF doctrinal inputs, they want a mix of both single and twin seaters, though they would prefer the Indian sider to develop a twin-seater platform. HAL will be contributing largely to composites, cockpits and avionics. The current AL-31FP engine will have to evolve into a more powerful turbofan — HAL is working to enter into a joint development mechanism with Russia for the evolution of the FGFA engine as an upward derivative of the AL-31FP.
The 20-ton multirole transport aircraft (MRTA) proposal has moved forward as well. A 50:50 shareholders agreement is now awaiting approval from the Russian side.
The proposal for the HAL-built Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) being developed to replace the Cheetah/Chetak fleet will shortly be taken to the Cabinet for final approval. According to Baweja, concepts of the chopper are firmed up and in place, work has even begun. Baweja has formally committed to certification and delivery of the first 10 choppers in 6 years. Incidentally, Ecuador will soon order two more ALH Dhruvs, taking its total order to nine helicopters.
HAL will build engines for any follow-on MiG-29Ks that the Navy orders. And the Chetak naval UAV being built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will make its first flight in a year. A formal contract with HAL is currently pending final approval.
Illustration ©Zinatullin Rustam