Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is an Indian fighter jet currently under development. It will be the first fifth-generation fighter used by the Indian Air Force. This fighter will provide many advanced and futuristic technologies to the IAF.
This is the first article in the series of articles on the AMCA program. We will cover many aspects of this program in this series. In this article, we will understand the need for AMCA. We will have a brief overlook of the development so far. Also, we will discuss the possible timeline and possible numbers that the IAF is looking for.
Need Of AMCA
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) are jointly developing AMCA for the needs of the Indian Air force. The reasons behind going for this project are as follows.
1. Need Of A Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft
Most of the fighter aircraft of IAF are fourth generation fighters. IAF currently doesn’t operate any fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Leading military powers of the world have either already developed their fifth-generation jets or are in the advanced stage of their development. For example, the US had F-22 Raptor and F-35, Russia has developed Su-57. China has developed J-20. India is considered the fourth largest military power after them. Thus it’s imperative for India to go for a fifth-generation fighter jet and when China is there as an adversary it becomes an urgent need.
2. China’s J-20: An Immediate Challenge
China’s fifth-generation fighter J-20 has entered into service in 2017. Till now at least 40 units have been manufactured. As per reports, China may have around 200 of them by 2027. This is a serious concern for India. However many experts raise questions on the capability of the J-20 as a fifth-generation stealth fighter. But many of the issues are being resolved. If the new more powerful engine is developed, J-20 will achieve its full potential and that will be a real headache for India.
3. Future Technologies Offered By AMCA
Fifth-generation fighters offer a full spectrum of new technologies that are not there in fourth generation jets. These are stealth, supercruise, etc. Also, many futuristic technologies like Directed Energy Weapons, Flyby Optics can operate at their best in these fifth-generation fighter jets. We will have a look at these in a later part while discussing the features of AMCA.
4. Issues In Procuring Foreign Platform
There are very few options available. The USA is not likely to offer such a platform to India as it hasn’t yet given them to many of its closest allies. Also procuring and operating the F-35 is already an economic burden for US air force itself. IAF can hardly afford this.
India was working with Russia on the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project. But it pulled back due to many issues like pricing and transfer of technology. Cost is a major issue while procuring foreign platforms.
Thus an indigenous platform is the most logical decision. This also helps in integrating weapons and technologies of our choice. There are limitations for such integrations with foreign platforms. Also, it is in line with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat policy of the government.
Development Of AMCA So Far
The program was earlier known as Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA). It was re-framed in 2010 with its name as AMCA. The basic design configuration was finalized in 2015. In 2018, Defence Minister declared that the feasibility study was completed. It was also decided to complete this project in two phases. The detailed design phase of AMCA started in 2018. It is expected that the government will give approval for next phase in second half of this year i.e. 2021. 15,000 crore Rupees will be allocated for design, development, and making prototypes.
Expected Timeline Of The AMCA Project
As mentioned above, AMCA will be developed in 2 phases. They are called AMCA mk1 and AMCA mk2. AMCA mk1 will be a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and AMCA mk2 will be more advanced with some features of sixth-generation fighter aircraft.
AMCA mk1 will be rolled out by 2024. Its first flight is expected in 2025. The induction in service may start from 2030. For AMCA mk2, we have to wait for more. It may take more than 10 years from now for the development of AMCA mk2.
How Many AMCA Will Be Inducted In Service?
As of now, it is expected that IAF will order 40 AMCA mk1 and 80 mk2. Thus IAF is currently looking for total of 120 fifth-generation stealthy fighters.
One might get surprised with the comparatively fewer numbers of AMCA. It is expected to replace Su-30 MKI in the future. But IAF operates Su-30 in larger numbers of 272. Why IAF is looking for fewer numbers?
Here we have to understand that with the coming up of fifth-generation fighter jets, the fourth-generation fighters are not going to disappear. The even USA is not planning to replace its entire fighter jets fleet with fifth-generation fighters. This is simply because that’s not feasible. Fourth-generation fighters with their upgraded versions will continue to play a major role in upcoming years. Fifth-generation fighters are likely to be deployed mainly in certain special missions.
The development of AMCA is witnessing pace in the last few years. AMCA models in Aero India 2021 showed that designs are also almost finalized. We can expect that the timelines will be met, unlike the past experience.
In the next article, we will discuss other interesting aspects of AMCA like its design and specifications, features, and possible weapon package. If you want us to cover any specific aspect of this program or have any questions about it, you can mention it in the comments section. These will be covered in the upcoming articles.