India on Its Way to a Fifth Generation Fighter

India was in discussion with Sukhoi of Russia for jointly developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). However, the deal came unstuck due to certain reasons. The Indian Air Force, in the meantime prepared their requirements for an FGFA and tasked the DRDO to develop the same for them. Sanction was accorded for designing the aircraft in December 2018 at a cost of INR 400 Crores (US$ 55 Million). Despite the apprehensions expressed by certain quarters, DRDO was able to develop the basic design of the aircraft.

Being a fifth generation aircraft, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) as the designers call it will have several futuristic features like, supercruise, ie, a capability to achieve supersonic cruising speeds without using after burners. It is also expected to have super manoueverability, data fusion capability and multi sensor integration. The AMCA will have installed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system. It is expected to weigh no more than 25 tonnes and have stealth features like serpentine air-intake, fully enclosed internal weapons bay, radar absorbing materials and conformal antennae. DRDO claims that most of the design for stealth shape has been completed as the design of individual systems and components had started as early as 2009.

The aircraft will be a twin-engine aircraft for which the Mark I AMCA will be installed with two GE-414 after burning engines of the 98 K-N category. This model will have limited super cruise capability. However, a new engine will be developed for the AMCA Mk II. Discussion are on with France on the subject, Safran had demonstrated one of their engines to an Indian delegation recently. This engine will be in the 110 K-N category and provide the complete capability desired of the AMCA.

The Ministry of Defence of India has already approached the Cabinet Committee on Security for a approval of 8,000 Crore ( US$ 1.1 Billion) for developing the prototype of the aircraft. DRDO expects to roll out the prototype from the hangar by 2024-25 and with the first test flight by 2026. They expect to start production of the AMCA MkI by 2029 and Mk II by 2035.

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