When India confirmed to Russia that it is no longer Interested in pursuing joint development of 5th generation fighter jet program based on its Su-57 fighter , back Home Air Chief B.S.Dhanoa had some pretty serious explaining to do to the media on why Indian Air Force decided and even recommended Ministry of Defence (MOD) to pull out from such a prestigious program.
In one to one Interaction with media, Dhanoa, when asked how IAF plans to counter Chinese developed 5th generation fighter which recently has been deployed in airbases in Tibet towards India, gave a sharp and prompt reply saying ” Radars of our Su’s (Sukhoi-30MKI) can detect them ” and ended this discussion and in subsequent questions dismissed rumours of India showing any interests in procurement of American 5th generation F-35 fighter jets .
IAF Chief seems to have driven a clear message within the organization and to agenda driven media personals that IAF is not only is walking out of FGFA program but is also not interested in any other 5th generation program as peddled in Indian media. Big boost seems to have come with his open support to the indigenous Advance Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program wholeheartedly even though the program is still in D&D phase.
Walking out of the Indo-Russian FGFA 5th generation fighter jet program certainly, has brought the focus back on indigenous AMCA program and with IAF and DRDO agreeing to take help from International vendors in incorporating equipment and systems which will come from with separate tender floated to procure 110 fighter jets. Roadmap seems much more clear and well throughout.
Having a homegrown Fifth generation fighter has its own benefits. First, IAF will have an air supremacy, as very few countries would be having their own indigenous fifth-generation fighter by then. Most of the AMCA fighters will be available at any given time. There will be no need to worry about the supply of spares stuck in a bureaucratic mess. AMCA project will also develop a healthy ecosystem for the next generation future weapon development projects. India will be free to select the countries it would want to transfer these fighters, and this will give India a better strategic depth and influence in the region as well as in the world.
A serious AMCA effort will not only help India enhance its design pedigree but also enable it to move up the value chain in what should be a key ‘Make in India’ manufacturing sector. Besides the second order technological benefits that would accrue to India’s aerospace sector, AMCA also holds the potential to become an aircraft that can be tailored to Indian Air Force’s (IAF) doctrinal requirements.
Despite what critics say, it is undeniable that the LCA programme has engendered a credible domestic aerospace eco-system with potential for further development. Due to the project, a range of standard test facilities have been set up by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which manages the overall LCA development programme. Today, India also has a contemporary National Flight Test Centre thanks to the LCA effort.
On the industrial side of things, several companies are involved in the HAL Tejas (LCA) programme and some of them are now global Tier-II and III suppliers. They have cut their teeth with this project that has seen the indigenous development of major sub-components such as an aircraft-mounted accessories gearbox, carbon-carbon brake discs, heat exchangers, hydraulic and fuel valves etc.
By value, more than 60% of the components going into the HAL Tejas MK-I are now indigenous and the aircraft’s indigenous content is sought to be raised further through greater outsourcing by HAL.
ADA already has started the ground process to make AMCA Project reality and already has issued tenders for Vendors to manufacture Technology Demonstrator for AMCA Fighter jets in next 4 years of the signing of contracts. State-owned Aerospace giant HAL along with Private Aerospace firms, including International Aerospace company has shown interest in becoming a major partner for the programme.
At Aero India 2019, ADA is likely to showcase a full-scale final design of AMCA and many International aero-engine companies have already shown interest in participating in the program to meet power requirements of Production variant of the AMCA fighter aircraft.
Most notable feature about AMCA is that 100% of it’s external surface is made of Composites which has known qualities of being stealthy, strong and maintenance friendly , unlike Tejas which has 45–50% of composites, one of the highest in any 4.5 Gen aircraft.
AMCA’s primary purpose is Multi-role fighter capability which includes Air superiority mission, Attack mission, Strike role, Precision targeting, Interceptor, and Bombing mission. As AMCA is intended to replace Sepecat Jaguar and Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft. Around 480 aircraft are estimated to be produced. Compared to aircraft it’s intended to replace, the AMCA will have a 50%-60% greater combat radius and 39% longer airframe lifespan, better avionics including a domestically produced AESA radar, and better electronic warfare, IRST, and datalink capabilities. Operational requirements also specify approx 110-125 tn of thrust provided by two engines, high-speed interception, supercruise capabilities, Thrust vectoring, Advanced stealth technology, and multirole capabilities.
AMCA programme will not only be a game changer for India’s Aerospace Defence sector but will be instrumental in creating that perfect Aerospace ecosystem which India was always missing when it started development of LCA-Tejas Program and had to suffer delays due to lack of infrastructure in the country to sustain the program at a good pace. .To be able to play to its own emerging airpower doctrine in the 21st century, the IAF also needs to ‘build’ its own aircraft at some level by taking ownership of the AMCA project.
By: Defence Update
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