The Indian state enterprise HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) has announced the manufacture of the first leading edge of the prototype of AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft), the 5th generation Indian multirole combat aircraft.
The Director-General of the Indian Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) announced that the definition of the AMCA prototype was frozen following the approval of the preliminary design review (PDR). The Critical Design Review (CDR) is expected by the end of the year. The first flight of the AMCA is scheduled for 2024-2025, and production is expected in early 2030. The schedule puts AMCA fructifying ahead of European NGF / FCAS, which is in limbo. The British Tempest is estimated to take its first flight in 2035.
The 25-ton AMCA will have an internal payload of 1.5 tons and an external payload of 5.5 tons and 6.5 tons of fuel. The AMCA will be available in stealth and non-stealth variants.
AMCA has serpentine air inlets, internal bays for missiles, and materials that absorb radar waves for stealth. It will be equipped with multi-sensor data fusion and active-antenna radar (AESA) technologies.
The AMCA MK1 version is being equipped with GE414 engines, which equip the LCA Tejas (previous generation of Indian combat aircraft). The AMCA MK2 version is planned to be equipped with a more powerful 110kN engine. A collaboration agreement is expected to be signed soon with SAFRAN or Rolls Royce for the development of this engine. SAFRAN has already worked with HAL in the past on the development of the Shakti engine for its ALH helicopter.
A crucial project
The AMCA is a crucial program for India, whose ability to protect its borders is under pressure. The objective of having 42 operational squadrons not having been achieved. Other than Rafales and LCA’s, the rest of the Indian Air Force fleet comprises ageing Mirages, Su-30 MKIs, Mig-29s, Jaguars, and Mig-21s.
Faced with Pakistani and Chinese threats, India wishes to have a 5.5 generation aircraft to guarantee the integrity of its territory with a very aggressive schedule. India plans to induct AMCA in just seven years from the first flight. It took 11 years for Rafale and 15 years for the F-22 for the same process. AMCA took 12 years to design.
To achieve this, India hopes to capitalize on its past experiences. Since the 1980s, India has tried to make an entire Indian plane with the HAL Tejas and the Kaveri engine. Kaveri never went beyond the development phase. The HAL LCA incorporates many foreign components: American engine, Israeli radar and missile of Israeli and Russian origins. Faced with these past pitfalls, one can better understand India’s plan to concentrate on developing the aircraft and its systems based on an American engine before embarking on the development of a “local” engine in collaboration.
Many different tasks
The design of the AMCA fifth generation aircraft, which began in 2010, will cost India about 150 billion rupees. In terms of dollars, this is a little less than two billion.
The result will be a single-seat aircraft with two engines. Its length is 17.6 meters, the wingspan is slightly more than 11 meters, the maximum takeoff weight is 25 tons, and the payload is 6.5 tons. The aircraft will be able to reach speeds of more than 2,600 kilometres per hour. The combat range will be more than 1.6 thousand kilometres. It can fly at the height of 20 kilometres.
The fighter will be armed with a 23 mm automatic airborne cannon, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and precision bombs. The Indian AMCA will have to perform many different tasks:
- Gain air superiority.
- Deliver precision strikes against targets on land and at sea.
- Suppress enemy air defenses and conduct electronic warfare.
With the GE-414 engine, AMCA MK-1 will not be able to fully match the flight characteristics of fifth-generation aircraft created in other countries.
AMCA Mark-2 version will feature a more powerful engine and the use of some technologies related to the sixth generation. Indian aircraft manufacturers have not specified what exactly they are.
The new Indian universal Fifth Generation fighter planned to replace the French Mirage-2000 multirole fighters and the Franco-British Jaguar fighter-bomber currently operating as MCA aircraft. IAF intends to equip seven squadrons with AMCA.