Russia and India should speed up work on their joint fifth-generation fighter plane to meet the challenge from the Chinese rival unveiled earlier this week, said a leading military expert.
“The Chinese prototype of a fifth-generation aircraft, J-20, appears to be a long-range strike aircraft and as such it will pose a potential threat to India,” said analyst Konstantin Makienko of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).
China's stealth fighter made its first 15-minute flight on Tuesday over an airfield in the south-western city of Chengdu. Mr. Makienko called the test flight an “unquestionable success” for the Chinese defence industry.
“China has emerged as the third nation developing the fifth-generation fighter plane after the U.S. and Russia,” he told The Hindu.
The Russian expert said India and Russia should intensify efforts to build their advanced fighter plane if they are not to lose the race to China.
“The J-20 fighter will be a direct rival of the Russian-Indian fifth-generation aircraft. The Chinese plane will be ready by 2020, so time will be a crucial factor.”
The Russian prototype, T-50, made its first flight a year ago. India joined the project only last month when the two sides signed a contract for the preliminary design of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft to be called Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF).
India will contribute about 30 per cent of the plane's total design by providing composite material components, some avionics, electronic warfare systems and cockpit displays. Indian designers will also be responsible for re-modelling Russia's single-seat fighter into a two-seater version for the IAF.
The PMF planes are expected to start rolling out around 2017, but delays cannot be ruled out, judging by past experience.
The fifth-generation fighter will be the first Indo-Russian aviation project that will be marketed in third countries.
The Russian Center for Analysis of International Weapons Trade estimates the global market for the PMF at over 400 planes.
“In order to retain its competitive edge the Russian-Indian fifth-generation fighter should enter global markets before the Chinese plane and cap its price at $80-100 million per aircraft,” the Russian expert said.
To rival China's new stealth jet