A Russian-speaking scientific source in touch with friends in Moscow said he was informed that the Kremlin had forwarded a note that mentioned certain things to the Modi government, chief among them are the following:
1) Russia’s readiness to have Indian Air Force fighter pilots test-fly the prototype FGFA (fifth generation fighter aircraft) was communicated to New Delhi many months back, so far eliciting no names of pilots Air HQrs want deputed for this test-flying stint (lasting from 6 months to a year). Moscow asked for the names to permit the Russians to do background checks on them and otherwise clear them for familiarization training. This is to include, besides classroom instruction, actually logging the necessary number of flying hours in two-seat trainers with Russian test pilots before they are permitted to take up the aircraft on solo flights. The Russians are afraid that allowing un-vetted “pro-Western” pilots may lead to the “secrets” of this aircraft — many new and novel technologies and aeroframe features — being leaked by them to the US and West European (French, British, German) government reps, and thence to their R&D labs, and defence industries.
2) The United Aircraft Corporation of Russia is also receptive to entertaining whatever new technologies and features they want incorporated in the “super Sukhoi” version of the Su-30. This super Sukhoi version will eventually replace the older Su-30MKIs, with the fleet size growing to some 272 + 45 or some 317 Super Sukhoi fighter-bombers in all in IAF. But these improvements need to be communicated soonest for the project to get underway. Especially, as the demand for Su-35 is revving up and some of the work force from the super Sukhoi line may have to be shifted to produce the Su-35.
3) Russia is also worried that in case the production of the US F-16/F-18 in India is approved by Modi, it will be difficult to keep the Russian technology from being accessed by Western technicians, whence the need has been voiced for a strict separation of the Russian aircraft and West-sourced combat aircraft all the way from operational location to production and servicing/maintenance. It is the sort of segregation, it may be recalled, US insisted on for its hardware since the 1990s (because they were afraid the Russioans would flick their technologies). With the F-16/F-18 level of technologies, even of the upgraded variety, these will be nowhere in the same league technologically as the super Sukhois and FGFAs. So now Russia has to be seriously concerned about thieving Western supplier states.
4) Moscow has also suggested a deadline of 4-6 months to finalize the super Sukhoi and FGFA contracts. It feels the Indian govt has tarried long enough, and the more time New Delhi is given to make up its mind, the more it will fritter away what its says are its scarce resources on Western equipment, leaving the Russian suppliers high and dry. For example, Rs 1,000 crore was found to buy an additional six Poseidon P-8Is for maritime reconnaissance, which minus the original avionics suite, amount to purchasing shells of the Boeing 737 plane but at three times the cost of the passenger aircraft, albeit with embedded wiring, etc. for plugging in various DRDO and private sector developed indigenous sensors, etc. [For some serious details in extenso on this subject, see a whole section on the P-8I as the flagship Indo-US project in my book ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’.] But, the Modi govt says it has no money to fund, in the same amount, the upgrading of Su-30MKIs to the super-Sukhoi configuration. This, according to the source, has left Moscow perplexed and angry.