by Saket Singh

When the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, there has been a shift in India’s Defence policy. Talks were going on inside the military to become self-reliant in the defence sector and how the new Modi government will address the issue. The first tenure of the BJP government witnessed a deal inked between India and Russia for the procurement of S-400 Triumf advanced surface- to -air missile system which is capable of destroying enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles. 

The ability to develop indigenous Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) has been a goal of Indian Air force (IAF) for a long time. The task to build a homegrown Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) is undertaken by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which comes under the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). India’s FGFA is known as Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The design of AMCA has been finalised by ADA and the full-scale engineering development is at the desired pace. The design of India’s FGFA will carry a feature called Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) which was not revealed earlier by ADA in previous defence exhibitions. The advantage of using Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) technology is that it provides more stealth to the aircraft from detection by the enemy which is an essential requirement for Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). 

As far as the flush air data sensing system is concerned, ADA’s work on this has grown out of its contribution to ISRO’s Re-Entry Launch Vehicle TD (RLV-TD) project. Flush air data sensor system uses surface pressure measurement from the nose cap of the vehicle for deriving air data parameters such as angle of attack, angle of side-slip, Mach number, etc. of the vehicle. 

These parameters are used by the flight control and guidance systems, and also assist in the overall mission management. However, while the RLV-TD flies a predictable and pre-determined path, the flight envelope for the AMCA will be far more complex and a significant amount of work is being put in to achieve flush air data sensing system (FADS) hardware to cater to the same. 


According to ADA, AMCA will be a single-seat true multi-role twin-engine fifth-generation stealth aircraft which will weigh around 25 tonnes. It will incorporate some advanced technologies such as Advanced Sensors with Data Fusion, 360-degree enhanced situational awareness, Integrated Vehicle Stealth Management, Internal Bay Weapon, Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESA) radar and super-manoeuvrability.

Why Stealth Aircraft 

The designed shape of AMCA is different from normal aircraft to achieve a high degree of stealth. When normal aircraft enters in enemy boundary, the early warning radar system sends radar beam signals to locate the aircraft and when the beam reflects the skin of the aircraft, the radar receiver will send the information to the on-board computer system and the surface-to-air-missile system will be used to shoot the aircraft.

However AMCA, with increased stealth ability, will deflect the radar beams in all directions which will make it difficult for the early warning radar system to locate it. To make aircraft stealthy, it uses Radar -Absorbent Material (RAM) which soaked the radar beams. A new technology that is currently being developed is Plasma stealth. It will ionize the radar beam and hence, it will be difficult to locate them. It will carry air-to-air-missile, air-to-ground-missile, precision-guided munition and dumb bombs. As AMCA has an Internal Bay weapon, it can hide the weapons which will reduce the Infra-Red Signature.

The design will be carried out in two versions i.e. AMCA-Mk-1 & Mk-2. As such aircraft are expensive in manufacturing, the squadrons will be limited. The heart of any fighter aircraft is their engine and AMCA Mk-1 will be propelled by General Electric- 414 after-burning turbofan engine which will generate a thrust of about 98 kilonewtons (KN). Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), a laboratory of DRDO, is working on developing an indigenous engine to power AMCA with the Kaveri engine (K-10). 

The Mk-2 version of AMCA will be powered by a more powerful engine with a thrust class of 110 kilonewtons (KN). While the super-cruise capability is not possible in AMCA Mk-1 with a low thrust class, IAF desires to achieve the same in AMCA Mk-2 which will have a high thrust class. The Technological Demonstrator of AMCA is expected to fly by 2025 and the series production of AMCA Mk-1 is set to begin from 2029. 

The AMCA Mk-2 will have more advanced radar sensors than Mk-1 and it will also feature some sixth-generation characteristics such as the ability to be optionally manned, automatic take-off and landing. Production of AMCA Mk-2 will begin by 2035 and IAF is focused on achieving more squadrons of Mk-2 version and to maintain it’s fleet to fight a two-front war.

Currently, USA has fully operational FGFA i.e. F-22 Raptors and lightening fast F-35, while Russia is believed to have developed Su-57 which is under trial and China has been working on Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31. 

It was quite obvious for Indians to start working and developing indigenous FGFA to counter the Chinese Air Force in Indian sub-continent. AMCA will certainly provide that edge to IAF over Pakistan also as there was news of China delivering some of Chengdu J-20 a fifth-generation fighter aircraft to Pakistan which was the main concern for India and a major reason for the army to start producing indigenous FGFA to have balance in the region.

Saket Singh is an amateur Defence watcher and is pursuing his favourite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN