India and Russia on Thursday signed a watershed agreement for the joint development and production of the futuristic fifth generation fighter aircraft.
Defence Minister A K Antony, who co-chaired the Indo-Russian inter-governmental commission on military technical cooperation, dubbed it as a 'landmark' pact in the six-decade-long defence cooperation with Russia.
The agreement was signed by Secretary Defence Production KP Singh and Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Foreign Military Cooperation Vyacheslav Dzirkaln in the presence of Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov.
"The joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft will mark the start of cooperation in the development of major state-of-the-art new technology weapon systems," Antony said.
He added that both India and Russia would have equal financial and technological stakes and issues related to the intellectual property and specific requirement of the Indian Air Force have been resolved.
Antony, however, declined to divulge when the new fighter, which will apparently rival US-British F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will be ready.
The inter-governmental agreement is based on the pattern of the successful joint development of Brahmos cruise missile.
Earlier, local business and political daily Kommersant had reported that the FGA project based on Sukhoi design bureau's super-secret PAK-FA T-50 project will cost at least $10 billion (about Rs 39,600 crore).
According to Russian Air Chief, General Alexander Zelin the first planes made under the project will take to the air in 2009 and serial production will begin a year later.
The second stage of the project, in which planes will meet full fifth-generation requirements, will begin in 2015. According to the President of Sukhoi Corporation Mikhail Pogosyan, the foundation of the futuristic FGA fighter project was laid in the course of development of Su-30MKI multi-role fighter for the Indian Air Force in, which IAF engineers and Indian defence experts had taken part.
As a spin-off of successful Su-30MKI project, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has also signed a deal for the supply of components of the airframes of Su-30 fighters to be assembled in Russia.