With its constant quest for self-reliance, India is getting closer to attaining its aim of producing its own fifth-generation combat aircraft. The much-touted AMCA stealth fighter jet programme, which has been on the drawing board for the past few years, is about to enter production.
India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently announced the figurative “metal cutting” for the first prototype of the country’s next-generation fighter plane, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, via Twitter (AMCA).
“Based on the design of ADA & DRDO, the manufacturing of Leading edge of AMCA begun at HAL with unique material for 5th gen design,” DRDO’s Twitter handle tweeted.
The prototype’s configuration had been frozen, the preliminary service quality requirements (PSQR) had been established, and the preliminary design review had been completed, according to the Director-General of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Girish S. Deodhare. Later this year, the Critical Design Review (CDR) is due.
The AMCA is scheduled to make its first flight in 2024-25, with series production starting in 2030, while the development agency believes that after four years of flight testing, the timeframe can be cut to 2028-29.
R Madhavan, the chairman of the state-owned HAL, announced in February that the corporation was using a special purpose vehicle (SPV) model with private partners to develop the next-generation AMCA and Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH).
Commercial defence businesses may be involved in the production of the combat jet, while HAL and ADA will handle the design and research. The upgraded stealth fighter will be a multi-role aircraft capable of air superiority, ground attack, enemy air defence suppression, and electronic warfare missions.
India’s Futuristic Fighter Jet (AMCA)
The AMCA is a twin-engine stealth aircraft with an internal weapons bay and a Diverter-less Supersonic Intake that has been manufactured for the first time and for which the design is now complete.
It will be a 25-tonne aircraft with a 1,500 kg internal payload and a 5,500 kg external payload, as well as 6,500 kg of internal fuel. According to reports, the Indian Air Force has bought 40 AMCA Mk-1 fighters, as well as at least 100 Mk-2 derivatives and some unmanned aircraft. The stealthy Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) would have’super cruise’ capabilities.
India’s entry into the exclusive club of countries with fifth-generation stealth jets will be ensured by AMCA. Only the F-35 and F-22 Raptors, the Su-57 Felon from Russia, and the J-20 from China are currently operational fifth-generation aircraft.
India will become only the fourth country to launch an indigenously developed stealth fighter aircraft with the AMCA. Turkey, on the other hand, is pursuing its own fifth-generation aircraft, the TF-X, with a launch date that is nearly identical to that of the Indian AMCA.
Then there’s South Korea (KF-21) and Europe (Tempest and FCAS) building fifth-generation fighter jets.
The AMCA programme is critical for the IAF, which now has just 30-32 fighter squadrons. Despite the 36 Rafale planes constructed in France, the service will not be able to reach the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons in the next 10-15 years, as then Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari earlier said.
In addition to the AMCA, India is considering purchasing 112 combat aircraft under the MRFA project to expand its fleet.
The AMCA’s Core
According to ADA chief Girish Deodhare, the AMCA will be available in stealth and non-stealth variants and will be produced in two stages: an AMCA MK1 with an existing GE414 afterburning turbofan engine that powers the LCA Tejas, and an AMCA Mk2 with a new, more powerful engine that will be developed collaboratively with a foreign player.
In addition, India and France are close to reaching an agreement on the development of a 125kN engine for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The improved AMCA engine is intended to be jointly produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Safran, a French engine manufacturer.
Because Safran and HAL currently work together on the Shakti engine, which powers the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv and its variations, a potential agreement for the AMCA engine should go smoothly.
Officials suggest that once the agreement with France is finalised, aircraft and engine development would proceed concurrently to meet deadlines.
The advancement of the AMCA programme would be a significant step forward for India, which is facing a deficit of combat aircraft in comparison to its required strength, as well as a belligerent neighbour on its borders.