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India’s 6th Generation “Tempest” Dilemma

“Tempest” has actually been in India’s recent all news and has been actually creating a “Tempest” in terms of debates of dilemma whether to just watch it or be with it. In the race of 6th Generation fighter, the UK Tempest is actually a very strong competitor. It is started to actually replace the air fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons of British RAF(Royal Air force) and Italian Air Force. The project started by BAE systems now includes the UK Ministry of Defence, Rolls-RoyceLeonardo S.p.A., and MBDA. All of them are now called “Team Tempest”

The “Tempest: was revealed by the British Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson on 16 July 2018 at the Farnborough Airshow. On 19 July 2019, Sweden and the United Kingdom signed an MoU to jointly develop “Tempest”. Along with this Italy has also joined in the making of “Tempest”. This program is headed by BAE systems. Leonardo is for the aircraft’s integrated sensors and electronic warfare capabilities. MBDA for the aircraft’s weapons systems. The U.K.’s Rolls-Royce for the aircraft’s engine.

So as of now, these are companies joined the manufacturing and possibilities are there for more. The same “Tempest” was pitched to Indian MoD officials in Aero India 2019. Many people were amazed by pitching of it as this was the first time we directly had a chance to collaborate in joint development from Western Countries.

Talking about capabilities, the fighter is coming with UNMANNED FLYING AND ARTIFICIAL-INTELLIGENCE. Here, most of the aircraft will be worked on AI. It is said that Tempest will be optionally manned. Chances are that 6th Generation fighters, the jet will be handled from different places. So something we can say what we saw in the “Black Panther” movie. Adding teeth to this capability will be SWARM DRONE TECHNOLOGY.

Along with these, there would be an Adaptive Cycle Engine. Here engine can automatically adjust themself to the battlefield condition like in supersonic, subsonic, and trans-sonic speed. Enhanced Radars and sensors are especially being developed for the same. With a cherry on top, there are bright chances of Directed Energy Weapons as well. And since armaments would be under MBDA, so there would be no question there.

History

FGFA Russia-India Su-57

We all know, what happened in the FGFA project Su-57 with Russia. We won’t go into details here. In the end, even though India had invested millions in R&D there were many issues related to Indian use. The overall cost shoots up by many folds with ToT issues from Russia. Here, India had to abandon the project. And in the end, we got nothing.

Current Scenario

We all know that IAF has a Vintage aircraft fleet. And India is actually looking for a replacement for most of its fleet. Here, Su-30 MKI, MIG-29, and Rafale are just a few new aircraft. The rest is not needed to mention here. So to fulfill this we are actually looking with high hopes towards HAL. HAL is well known for its Delays and Cost escalations as well. But at the end of the day, the Sole Producer of Aircraft (Military) in India.

Currently, India has many ambitious projects for each category of fighter jet program. Let’s discuss them a bit here,

  1. Tejas Mk 1: Currently all IOC delivered but FOC in Making (A lightweight Fighter)
  2. Tejas Mk 1A: According to HAL, the first Tejas Mk.1A will fly by 2022 with serial production starting in 2023. The first squadron of Tejas Mk.1A will be delivered by 2025. (A lightweight fighter)
  3. Tejas Mk 2: Metal Cutting by April 2021. The ‘roll-out’ of first prototype of the MWF is scheduled for August 2022.Its first flight expected in September 2023. (A Medium Weight Fighter)
  4. TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter):- Possible First flight by 2026. (Medium category fighter for Navy)
  5. AMCA( Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) Mk 1:- Possible 1st flight by 2025. (Medium Weight Fighter)
  6. AMCA Mk 2:- Possible in 2032-34 (Could be a heavyweight fighter)
  7. SPORT (SuPersonic Omni Role Trainer):- Details are awaited, but possibly around 2025.

Now here, there is also ORCA (Omni Role Combat Aircraft) which is also told to be Tejas Mk 2 but many of its details are unknown. Along with this Sukhoi-30, MKI (12 in number) is being manufactured at the Nashik facility. So there are actually 7-8 aircraft in line. Most of them would be indirectly made by HAL. Private participation will be there but up-to a certain extent.

So, let’s now think about the budget IAF has given, it is actually going to be really tough decade and with MMRCA tender and Current fleet operationalization cost it is really going to be tough.

AMCA

The AMCA is going to be a 5.5 Generation aircraft as per many sources. And AMCA could be more than that. So, many analysts think that it might have more 6 Generation Capabilities indirectly. But still calling it directly a 6 Generation Aircraft would be hard.

The Dilemma

As seen 7-8 fighter jet programs are actually cumbersome. The AMCA which is 5 Generation (Claimed to be 5.5 Generation) will get inducted after 2030. And AMCA Mk 2 even after that. So the full-fledged 6 Generation fighter is not in making and it should be our priority. This is said because by the time IAF will get operationalized 5 Gen aircraft word would have already made or testing the 6th Generation Aircraft

India has already learned from a costly endeavor of FGFA with Russia. So there is a quote we all know,

दूध का जला छाछ को फूंक कर पीता है

Another dilemma is Since there will be joint development the cost will be shared among developers. If India made everything of our own, well it’s -definitely going to be costly. 7-8 programs show us that there might also be a delay as HAL is in the process. Not discrediting HAL, but history shows the future at times. A delay will be induced, cost escalation will take place. But since our pace will be slowed down, it would have no effect on the world which would be progressing at the same pace.

Some confirmed reports also show that the US has already tested 6th Generation fighter. Russia has also started the development indirectly where possible Sukhoi and Mig will work together. And another major 6th Generation fighter program is FCAS(Future Combat Air System ) by France and Germany. India is not officially invited but India could easily get hands on it and neither country would deny. And at the same time, China is also getting its Industrial base ready for it. So India has to get 6 Generation fighter, either go solo or join someone.

Why India Was Invited?

The world is closely looking to India, as it is the most potent and promising market in terms of defense. India has got 2 neighbors which don’t give him a chance to catch a breath and continuously invest more and more in the defense sector. A recent example is the LAC stand-off. Along with this, the dilemma of hanging sword of India’s Depleting Squadron strength is known by the “Team Tempest”.

Since these projects are long term. A lot of costs are involved in it. And here, we are talking about the amount in Billions. The UK has promised 2 billion funding in Tempest. So will other countries fund. Also. these countries know that India has to develop a fighter of 6th Generation as China has already got plans for it. And Since has tech then Pakistan will also get hands-on it (Doubts are there, whether Pakistan will exist till that time or will be called China). India has to invest a huge sum of money in co-developing it.

The next reason is the Market and since the fighter actually made to replace mainly Sweden, Italy, and British forces they might not find many orders for the same. They would also need other buyers. India will also need to replace its whole fleet in the future. Also, they are possibilities that due to cheap labor. The confidentiality which India keeps might also be one of the reasons why they are trusting India.

Along with all of these India is the software base. Silicon Valley of India is actually booming in the current scenario. And it will continue to boom due to future technologies like AI, Machine Learning, etc. And since all of these features are also in Tempest, India could be main in supplying the software data.

Should India Join?

Totally depends on the future of our ambitious developing projects. If all the projects have gone on time set. India’s AMCA Mk 2 will also come out when “Tempest” Comes out i.e. 2035 so again Dilemma. AMCA Mk 2 is going to be a 6th Generation fighter. We know the potential of our scientists, and everything can be “Made In India”. The lack of funding is the issue. We all know, given a chance they will never fail.

So instead of investing money in foreign fighter, India can make its own. The place where India lags is Engine. This could be overcome as well soon. As KAVERI can be made from Offsets of RAFALE. And next-generation KAVERI required in AMCA Mk 2 could be made with the timeline. Also, DRDO is collaborating with Rolls Royce to develop an engine. Even if that goes fruitful, India can directly have a next-generation fighter engine.

Along with all of these, a concept on which “Tempest” is in making and features which they want to include are, as of now said to be much ambitious. But some contradict it, as because of new technologies like 3-D printing and rapid prototyping will help to develop the technology at a much faster rate. The dilemma again here is both of them are right. A delay can be caused if a feature is not ready on time. During that time cost-escalation would be astronomical.

Here, Indian defense analysts have also to keep a thing in mind. A jet made in western countries (Here, all countries are cold-weather ones) cannot be directly inducted in India because of its tropical climate. The jets may have to go several modifications and this again will increase costs for India. But at the same time, the technologies tapped and learned from “Tempest” could also be used in the AMCA project.

Here, IAF has also given commitments to stick with “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” and “Make in India” and also given commitments for purchasing the aircraft from HAL from all programs, The Tejas itself consists of the commitment of 83 and Mk 2 Tejas will have more. SPORT with a minimum commitment of 50 and along with this MMRCA commitment of 114 aircraft. And at the same time, the defense budget is not increasing at the rate desired. So priorities are to be set here.

Conclusion

The idea and decision of India both are at an immature stage. The UK officials will pitch the “Tempest” with much more details in probable AERO INDIA 2021. Also, the contract, terms and conditions, amount of funding, mature time, etc have not come into the light of the public domain. Technology transfer would be the main eye of India because now MoD officials would have learned that without it the project is doomed if invested by India. Final thoughts can’t be given as still, the future is never predicted.

Care is just to be taken by all officials that they should also look at the dilemma of capacity and capabilities of India’s HAL and at the same time with the “Tempest”. The opportunity cost shouldn’t even go waste.

Nirav Kotak

A Mechanical Engineer and a Defense Enthusiast wanting to share knowledge and learn more from others as well.

One Comment

  1. India should join #TeamTempest since due to lack of technology and experience our AMCA is also getting postponed year-by-year and we don’t have any expertise in making 5th Gen jets since it is our first time in making a 5th gen jet, then how come we can focus on 6th gen jets.

    Perhaps, India will have some edge over the technology of Tempest which is of British origin, hence Britain was a part of the F-35 program and India will benefit from British technology, and at the same time British will have a lot of countries partnering in and there won’t be any deficiency of money and India will get a 6th Gen jet and we can incorporate Tempest’s 6th Generation capabilities in our upcoming future 7th,8th,9th generation jets with more indigenous capabilities.

    We understand our failure with Russia during the HAL/Sukhoi FGFA program, where India had got nothing instead of we could have bought F-35’s worth 4 Billion dollars the same amount which we staked at the FGFA program.

    India should keep a close watch on how much Transfer of Technology is taking place and the project success rate by appropriate analysis.

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