‘Big milestone’ for India’s AMCA stealth fighter jet program as DRDO announces test of fifth-generation tech

India is getting closer to realizing its dream of developing its own fifth generation fighter jet with its steady push towards autonomy. AMCA’s much-vaunted stealth fighter program, which has been on the drawing board until now, is now poised to enter the production phase.

In a historic development, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) recently took to Twitter to announce the proverbial ‘metal cutting’ for the first prototype of India’s next-generation fighter jet. , the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The official handle of DRDO tweeted: “Based on the design of ADA & DRDO, the manufacturing of the leading edge of the AMCA has been initiated at HAL with a special material for the 5th generation design. The unit will undergo structural and other tests before putting it on the first prototype. An important milestone for the AMCA.”

Earlier, the Director General of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Girish S. Deodhare revealed that the prototype configuration was frozen, the Preliminary Quality of Service Requirements (PSQR) were finalized and the Preliminary Design Review was completed. finished. The Critical Design Review (CDR) is due to take place later this year.

AMCA’s inaugural flight is program for 2024-25, with serial production beginning in 2030, while the development agency estimates that after four years of flight testing the period may be shortened to 2028-29.

AMCA Artists Impression

In February this year, R Madhavan, chairman of state-owned HAL, said the company employed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with private partners to produce the next generation AMCA and Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH).

While HAL and ADA will handle the design and development, commercial defense companies could be involved in the production of the fighter jet. The advanced stealth fighter will be a versatile fighter capable of dominating the air, striking on the ground, suppressing enemy air defense and carrying out electronic warfare tasks.

AMCA – India’s futuristic fighter jet

The AMCA is seen as a twin-engine stealth aircraft with an internal weapons bay and a supersonic intake without a diverter, which was first produced and the design of which is now complete.

It will be a 25 ton aircraft with an internal payload of 1,500 kg and an external payload of 5,500 kg in addition to 6,500 kg of internal fuel.

The Indian Air Force is said to have ordered 40 AMCA Mk-1 fighters and at least 100 Mk-2 derivatives, along with some unmanned variants. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) would be stealthy and have “super cruise” capabilities.

File:AMCA model displayed during Aero India 2021.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
An AMCA model shown during Aero India 2021 (Wikimedia Commons)

AMCA will ensure India’s entry into the elite club of countries with fifth-generation stealth aircraft. Only the F-35 and F-22 Raptors from the United States, the Su-57 Felon from Russia and the J-20 from China are currently operational fifth-generation aircraft.

With the AMCA, India is set to become just the fourth country to launch a locally produced stealth fighter jet. However, Turkey is also aggressively pursuing its own fifth-generation aircraft, known as TF-X, which shares nearly the same launch schedule as India’s AMCA. Next, South Korea (KF-21) and European nations (Tempest and FCAS) are also developing fifth-generation combat aircraft.

The TF-X mockup at the Singapore Air Show (via Twitter)

For the IAF, which currently has only 30 to 32 fighter squadrons, the AMCA program is crucial. The service will not be able to reach the sanctioned size of 42 squadrons in the next 10 to 15 years, despite the 36 Rafale aircraft built in France as before declared then Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari.

Apart from the AMCA, India is also evaluating its options to procure 112 fighter jets under the MRFA project to bolster its fleet. The EurAsian Times has done an elaborate survey on the MRFA project which can be viewed here.

The Heart of AMCA

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 turbojet that powers the LCA Tejas, and AMCA Mk2 with a new, more powerful engine that will be collaboratively developed with a foreign actor, according to ADA chief Girish Deodhare.

Additionally, India and France are close to reaching an agreement to collaborate on the development of a 125 kN engine for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Safran, a French engine manufacturer, are expected to jointly produce the advanced AMCA engine.

A model of HAL AMCA. (via Twitter)

Safran and HAL are already collaborating on the Shakti engine, which powers the indigenous advanced light helicopter Dhruv and its variants. So, a future deal for the AMCA engine between the two should go smoothly.

Officials said that once the agreement with France is reached, the development of the plane and the engine will proceed simultaneously in order to meet the deadlines.

The progress of the AMCA program would mark a major change for India which presents itself as a shortage of combat aircraft against the required force with an aggressive neighbor on its doorstep.

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