India on course to develop 5th gen stealth fighter jets with its AMCA programme

26 Nov 2021


India is well on course to develop Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) that would feature enhanced stealth qualities and ‘supercruise’ capabilities. The development of the fifth-gen AMCA fighter would be a big boost to India’s defence capabilities.

The proposal for full-scale engineering development of its prototypes has been finalised. This will be sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval early next year, according to media reports. 
The AMCA project is expected to cost roughly Rs 15,000 crore and reports suggest that discussions between the ministry of defence and the ministry of finance on the development of AMCA prototypes were over. 
The CCS, the highest decision-making body on India’s national security, is expected to put its stamp of approval early next year.
AMCA would ensure India’s entry into the elite club of countries with fifth-generation stealth warplanes. So far, only the US (F-35 and F-22 Raptor), Russia (Su-57 Felon), and China (J-20) have fifth-generation aircraft in their arsenal. With the AMCA India could become the fourth country to operate an indigenous stealth fighter aircraft.
The cost of developing the 25-ton AMCA is expected to be roughly Rs 15,000 crore, with Mark-1 jet production starting in 2030-31.
The AMCA project is critical for the IAF, which now operates only fourth generation fighter jets in its depleting force of 30-32 fighter squadrons, mostly comprising of older planes. The latest fighters with the IAF are the 36 French-made Rafale fighters, which are considered as aircraft between the fourth and fifth generation.
The AMCA design has been approved as far back s in December 2018 and meets IAF’s “preliminary staff qualitative requirements”. However, the lack of a powerful engine remains an issue. 
Reports say the first two AMCA Mark-1 squadrons will be equipped with the existing General Electric-414 afterburning turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 98 kilonewtons, while the next five squadrons of mark-2 will be equipped with a more powerful 110-kilonewton engine.
The foreign collaborator will be chosen by early-2022, and the new engine will be built in-house at the same time, according to a report in The times of India newspaper. 
The AMCA will have advanced stealth features such as “serpentine air-intake” and an internal bay for smart weapons, as well as radar dampening materials and a conformal antenna.
The fighter will also have data fusion and multi-sensor integration with AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars, as well as the supercruise capability, to achieve supersonic cruise speeds without the use of afterburners.
Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the aircraft design and development agency under Defence Research and Development Organisation, is in charge of the aircraft design. The AMCA will cater to the needs of the Indian Air Force and the Navy
A public-private partnership between the DRDO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and an Indian private business is slated to produce it. By 2028, the programme hopes to be in full production.
The first aircraft of the HAL AMCA programme is expected to roll out by 2024. 
The AMCA, which is designed to perform a variety of missions such as air superiority, ground-strike, SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses), and electronic warfare (EW), would replace the Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter, which currently serves as the backbone of the IAF fighter fleet. Low radar cross-section and supercruise capability are key features of the AMCA design.
The AMCA project has completed the feasibility study as well as the preliminary design stage, and  has now entered the detailed design phase, which began in February 2019. At Aero India 2019, a CAD model of the plane was displayed. By 2025, the maiden flight is expected, and serial production might start by 2030.
After the HAL Marut and HAL Tejas, the AMCA would be India’s third supersonic jet. AMCA will be built in two stages — AMCA Mk-1 and AMCA Mk-2. The former will be a fifth-generation fighter, while the AMCA Mk-2 will be more sophisticated, incorporating certain sixth-generation features.

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