Wednesday, October 5, 2022

India’s Fifth-Gen Fighter Jet Program – Delhi To Expedite Discussions With France On AMCA Warplanes

In a bid to boost India’s self-reliance aspirations, the Defense Ministry has directed its officials to expedite negotiations with France on the co-development of a new fighter jet engine.

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The ministry has set a month’s deadline for its officials to complete the negotiations. This decision was taken as the issue has been dragging on for quite some time now, primarily due to disagreements over the financing of research and development costs for a new jet engine, reported Economic Times. 

The agreement calls for India and France to collaborate on the development of a 110 KN (Kilonewton) engine for India’s fifth-generation fighter jet. The engine is expected to power the Mk2 — the AMCA’s second version, with the first powered by the GE414 engine.

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Following discussions with his French counterpart in December 2021, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh stated that France had offered to manufacture a military engine in India under the strategic partnership model.

AMCA model displayed during Aero India 2021 – Wikipedia

Discussions have been ongoing with France since 2016 to redirect some of the Euro 3.5 billion offsets from the Rafale fighter plane contract to this project.

The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is spearheading the development of a new fighter jet complex, with advanced talks with the French company Safran to co-develop a 110 kn jet engine.

Safran has proposed a comprehensive technology transfer for engine development as well as the utilization of offset credits from the Rafale sale.

Rafale
Rafale Fighter Via Dassault Aviation

However, the negotiations, according to ET, came to a halt after extensive investigations revealed that a portion of the offsets — little more than Euro 250 million — could be used for the project.

The remaining Euro 500 million have to be raised by the government. Efforts are now being made to find a method to move the project forward while reducing costs.

AMCA — India’s Indigenous Stealth Fighter

The AMCA is a twin-engine stealth aircraft with an internal weapons bay and a Diverter-less Supersonic Intake. It will be a 25-tonne aircraft with a 1,500 kg internal payload and 5,500 kg external payload, as well as 6,500 kg of internal fuel. 

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In March 2022, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) announced the proverbial “metal cutting” for the prototype of India’s next-generation fighter jet, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Previously, Girish S. Deodhare, Director-General of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), announced that the prototype’s configuration had been frozen, the preliminary service quality requirements (PSQR) had been finalized, as well as the preliminary design review had been completed.

The Critical Design Review (CDR) is set to be completed later this year.

The AMCA’s maiden flight is slated for 2024-25, with series production beginning in 2030; however, the development agency anticipates that after four years of flight testing, the time frame can be cut to 2028-29.

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the DRDO plans to develop five AMCA prototypes for development and flight testing.

According to reports, the Indian Air Force has committed to procuring 40 AMCA Mk-1 fighters and at least 100 Mk-2 derivatives, as well as unmanned variants. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) would be stealthy and capable of “supercruise.”

HAL AMCA
A Model of HAL AMCA – Twitter

India’s admission 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 from Russia, and the J-20 from China are currently operational fifth-generation aircraft. 

India could become the fourth country to field an indigenously developed stealth fighter aircraft with the AMCA. However, Turkey is also seeking its fifth-generation aircraft, the TF-X, with a launch date that is nearly identical to that of the Indian AMCA.

Then there are South Korea (KF-21) and Europe (Tempest and FCAS) building next-generation fighter jets.

The AMCA program is critical for the IAF, which currently has just 30-32 fighter squadrons. Despite the 36 Rafale jets manufactured in France, the service will not be able to reach the sanctioned size of 42 squadrons in the next 10-15 years. In addition to the AMCA, India is considering purchasing 114 combat aircraft under the MRFA project to expand its fleet.

The advancement of the AMCA program would be a significant step forward for India, which is facing a deficit of combat aircraft in comparison to the required strength, as well as the belligerent neighbors on its borders. 

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