Jan 25, 2007

Russia's Generous Offer

One of the agreements signed by India with Russia during the Russian Defence Minister’s visit to New Delhi is on the manufacturing of the Russian RD-33MK thrust-vectoring engines for the MIG-35 (a highly maneuverable air-superiority fighter) in India. This is highly significant when China and Pakistan are hoping to get Russian sanction to use Russia’s Klimov RD-93 engines on the fighter aircraft JF-17 jointly developed by them.

Modern jet engines are among the most technically challenging military technologies. Operationally useful thrust vectoring -- the ability to angle the thrust of the jet engine, substantially increasing the maneuverability of the aircraft -- is one of military technology's crowning achievements. Russia was the first to master real thrust vectoring and build it into a serving combat aircraft design: the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which uses single-axis or up-and-down vectoring. The technology has only now made its appearance in the U.S. military in the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory -- the F-22 Raptor, and then only in single-axis form. The RD-33, on the other hand, can vector the thrust in all directions, adding even more maneuverability.

Trouble with jet engine design set back the Indian indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) by years. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. had to use General Electric F404 engines in the LCA after the Indian-designed Kaveri engine development stalled. The LCA, now dubbed Tejas ("radiance"), is set to replace the Indian air force's MiG-21 fleet.

The close, hands-on experience in manufacturing the RD-33 will set India on the course of avoiding these troubles in the future. Having a manufacturing facility on its own soil will give the Indian military industrial complex a new -- although far from complete -- independence. India has often cultivated multiple defense suppliers in order to avoid shortages or sanctions by any one partner. Such design expertise is a further step away from reliance on foreign sources.

Although Russia will continue to sell parts to India's air force for some time, in the long run, this deal is better for India than it is for Russia because it helps India take important steps toward independence. Any further shared design experience on a new fifth-generation fighter -- even if it goes no further than a handful of Indian engineers spending a few cold winters at the Sukhoi Design Bureau -- will be enormously significant for India's indigenous design capability.[Stratfor]

1 comment:

Chandra said...

Apparently China will get the engines for JF-17 (called FC-1, for Fighting China, in China) but not pak.