The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project has been in limbo for many years. But the MoD and PMO are likely to go ahead with the project since our adversaries are gearing up their military inventories at an alarming level. Hence, the looming shift in the balance of air power threatens to eliminate the air superiority lead that India has enjoyed over a considerable period of time.

High Development Cost

The project will require about Rs. 4,000 to 5,000 crores for the design and development. HAL had displayed a scale model of the AMCA at the Aero India Show in Bangalore in 2013.

AMCA will be a twin-engine multi-role single seat fighter with internal weapons bay and indigenous stealth technologies like radar absorbent paint and composites.

While the IAF may be skeptical about HAL/ADA's claims to develop the AMCA, this should not deter the planners from going ahead with the project. India cannot continue buying aircraft from abroad and we have to move ahead after TEJAS to maintain our design capability and other technologies developed for the light fighter.

Design Improvements

As per reliable sources, AMCA's design has been frozen after obtaining critical inputs from the IAF to improve its stealth characteristics. There has been steady progress in the program following the basic design freeze. However, at this point, the actual changes to the design cannot be ascertained. It is worthy to note that despite Lockheed Martin's long-standing experience in fighter aircraft design its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has faced significant problems. Therefore, prudence should overcome exuberance in the final outcome of AMCA's design.

Joint Venture Program

India had approached Russia in 2015 to partner it on certain critical technologies for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Top sources tell that the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has asked Russia for assistance in developing thrust vectoring and certain other technologies on the concept fifth generation jet platform.

The ADA has opened discussions with turbofan houses in the US, Russia and Europe for what it believes need to be 110 kN engines in twin configuration for the AMCA. The engines will specifically need to support supercruise. The ADA has indicated to engine manufacturers that modifications could potentially be a joint effort in country, involving the DRDO and other agencies if necessary. Either way, the ADA has ambitiously aimed at producing up to four prototypes, with the first rolling out in 2019.

As the ADA recently set down as the aircraft's profile and definition, "The AMCA is being designed as a stealth, medium weight, twin engine, multimission aircraft with a swing-role capability. Among the advanced technologies that confer stealth capabilities are serpentine air intakes, internal weapons bays, radar absorbing structure (RAS), radar absorbing materials (RAM), frequency selective surface radome and conformal air data probes. The avionics system features integrated modular architecture supporting NCW capabilities, advanced pilot-vehicle interface, pilot associate and integrated vehicle health management. The integrated flight and propulsion control system will combine the traditional flight control functions with thrust vectoring and engine control functions."

Naval Boost

Ahead of Navy Day celebrations on 4 December, Admiral Sunil Lanba, India’s chief of naval staff (CNS), caused a flutter in the media by suggesting that the Navy was scrapping the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, India’s premier light fighter jet program. At a press conference, Lanba remarked that the Navy was looking for temporary replacement jet from a source abroad for carrier operations as the LCA (Navy) wasn’t “yet up to the mark.”

Contrary to the above it is learnt that the Indian Navy had asked for a briefing on the AMCA project which ADA is heading and they were briefed on AMCA project by the ADA which was attended by Navy’s high ranked officers.

Navy will join the program once AMCA begins its Technological demonstration phase after its first flight somewhere near end of this decade.

However, the Navy is keen that the N-LCA program is successful so that they can move to N-AMCA project soon after its completion. N-LCA had some issues with its landing gear which needed to be redesigned to operate on an aircraft carrier and survive hard deck landing. N-LCA has already undergone several tests which also includes a test at the Shore based test facility in Goa.

Our sources have confirmed that Navy has received a briefing and also a copy of ASR (Air Staff Requirements) issued by Indian air force on AMCA aircraft, Navy is also working out how N-AMCA will fit its doctrine and into its plans of operating larger aircraft carrier from IAC-2 onwards. (IDN & internet sources)

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