India is aggressively working on developing its 5th generation advanced multirole combat aircraft (AMCA). The primary aim is to develop the AMCA indigenously, reduce dependency on foreign players like Russia and France and at the same time support the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ mission.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly working aggressively in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Aeronautical Development Agency to develop the indigenous AMCA.
Earlier, India had decided to work with Russia on joint development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). However, this plan was abandoned in 2017 to promote indigenization and reduce dependence on foreign technology. India was also not happy with the progress of FGFA.
The modular design of the fifth-generation, twin-engine single-seat aircraft is said to be finalised. ‘That is what we are putting our energies into,’ Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said recently. More than most of his predecessors, Bhadauria has supported the need to focus on indigenous design and manufacturing.
Six squadrons of AMCAs are planned initially. The first flight is expected in 2024-25, followed by trials and tests. It will be in full production by 2029.
Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA)
AMCA will be a single-seat, twin-engine, stealth all-weather multirole fighter aircraft with an indigenous AESA radar. In 2018, $60 million was allotted for prototype design and R&D.
The project will face similar technology and knowledge transfer challenges as FGFA, because ‘no nation is willing to share its stealth technology’ with India, a senior Indian official admitted.
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are meanwhile moving swiftly on the development of the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA).
The 25-ton jet will have all munitions in its belly and will be propelled by two engines capable of super-cruise speeds. AMCA will have complex S-shaped serpentine intakes. These hide the spinning turbine blades in the engine and are a key stealth feature.
The supercruise feature enables the AMCA to accelerate without the use of afterburners. Both features guarantee minimum radar signatures and thus making it stealthy. Designed as a fifth-generation stealth fighter using composite material, the AMCA will be unveiled by ADA in 2024.