India’s 5.5 Generation AMCA Fighter Jet Might ACTUALLY Fly! But Here’s The Catch…

India's AMCA 5.5 Generation program might face same issues as its FGFA program.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

2007 marked the beginning of India and Russian Sukhoi Design Bureau’s attempt to collaborate for the fifth generation fighter aircraft. The Su-57 served as the basis for the new project, which was referred to as the “Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft” (FGFA)—the project aimed to develop a multifunctional fifth-generation fighter aircraft with two seats. India withdrew from the project in April 2018 despite Russia and India having been actively working together and confirming their intention to work together. Even though great progress had been made in the development and implementation of enhancements to the base model of the Su-57, this ended up happening.

Indian official sources have never commented on the end of the deal. In April 2018, the military industry publication Janes Defence Weekly reported that India was withdrawing from the joint FGFA project with Russia. According to Janes, the Indian side allegedly informed the Russian side, citing insurmountable technological and financial disagreements. A few days later, a Russian newspaper, Vedomosti, citing an official from the military-technical cooperation system, refuted this information. The Indian side did not send any notifications about withdrawing from the joint fifth-generation fighter program, so the newspaper wrote about it. Rostec, the Russian Military Industrial conglomerate, called reports of India’s withdrawal from the FGFA project as speculation.

On November 2, 2021, RBC of Russia published an interview with Dmitry Shugaev, then Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. He said the program is suspended “until the Russian Armed Forces accept the Su-57.”

“Our Su-57 fighter belongs to the heavy class, while the AMCA (Indian Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft program) is a medium class. It is incorrect to compare them at all. We initially had a very competitive and highly attractive offer — the creation of a fifth-generation aircraft in which the Indians would also gain the necessary competencies. As of today, they have suspended their participation — well, fine, that’s a sovereign decision. We do not insist on anything. Moreover, our own program is in full swing; we are still adopting it into service,” said Shugaev.

In the later part of the interview, Shugaev said, “It cannot be definitively said that this issue is closed today. The Indian side has suspended its participation in this program until the Su-57 is accepted by our Armed Forces; this is a fact. Today, the aircraft is in (an) experimental combat operation. I can only add that the Su-57 is a multifunctional fighter initially intended for the National Air Force. However, it simultaneously has very high export potential, which is confirmed by international expert opinion.”

The Indian fighter version’s design was developed during the program’s initial phase, which cost $295 million. Nevertheless, the FGFA initiative was unable to advance further due to the parties’ disagreements.

India is still unable to acquire an aircraft comparable to the Russian Su-57. Unlike the BrahMos cruise missile project, the FGFA initiative was unable to overcome the challenges.

India so far has developed only a handful of non-flying mockups of the AMCA project that have been markedly distinct from one another in the past years. The initial flight of the Indian fifth-generation fighter was postponed until 2028, and experts anticipate that this will not be the final delay.

Developing a fifth-generation aircraft is an exceptionally difficult endeavor in the absence of innovative technologies, a self-contained powerplant, and other critical components.

Pakistan, India’s main regional adversary, intends to resolve its fifth-generation fighter issue for its air force in the near future. China actively cooperates with Pakistan, and by the end of 2024, the first squadron of Shenyang FC-31 fighters is expected to be commissioned. Over the next four years, Pakistan’s fleet of Chinese fifth-generation fighters is projected to grow to sixty planes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. offered India the opportunity to solve the problem by purchasing the problematic F-35 Lightning II and the upgraded F-16 “Viper.” However, this would lead to India’s technological and military dependence on the U.S., jeopardizing its sovereignty and strategic interests.

Russia, too, has attempted to lure India through the Su-75 Checkmate program. The Su-75, unlike the Su-57 program during the years when India withdrew from it, is simply a mockup. Even worse, it is a single-seat, single-engine aircraft. It hasn’t even been proposed for India’s Medium Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) program. Russia requires a flyable aircraft to send it for MRCA competition testing.

Given the difficulties of overseas acquisition, India’s plan appears to rely primarily on the AMCA program. Indian Air Force officials have suggested that the AMCA may be a “5.5 Gen” fighter (whatever it means), which would allow for incorporating certain sixth-generation features. Some potential sixth-generation technologies that could be incorporated into the sixth-generation aircraft include the ability to operate autonomously with advanced AI systems, advanced avionics, and Directed Energy Weapons. However, it appears that none of these are feasible with India’s current state of technology.  

Even if India can manufacture the AMCA, it may be a 5th Generation trade-off aircraft, similar to the Turkish TAI Kaan, Chinese Chengdu J-20, Korean KAI KF-21 Boramae, and the Russian Sukhoi Su-75, and Su-57. AMCA may encounter complications regarding the next-generation engine, design, and cost, which is precisely why India withdrew from the Su-57 project. The AMCA program can function as a foundation for advancing these technologies in future Indian fighter jets, even if it is not completely implemented.


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