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Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)

The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), Indias modern stealth fighter jet, is expected to make its maiden flight in 2032, local media reported 20 August 2018, citing a defense source. "The AMCA will feature geometric stealth and will initially fly with two GE-414 engines. Once we develop our own engine, it can be replaced with that. We expect the first flight in 2032," the source said, as quoted by The Hindu newspaper. The source added that the AMCA might later incorporate material stealth.

The aircraft will have GE-414 engine, which is currently being designed within the light combat aircraft (LCA) project, according to the source. The AMCA is now the only fifth-generation aircraft left in development after the joint India-Russia project was frozen, the media outlet said. The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project is part of India's current government policy, dubbed Make in India. Russia and India initially agreed to jointly design a fifth-generation jet, but the project was put on hold 20 August 2018.

The AMCA is a 19-20 ton category fifth generation fighter that will feature stealth including an internal weapon bay. FGFA and AMCA are different categories - AMCA is being pitched as an analog of the F-35 Lightening, with the FGFA being an analog of F-22 Raptor. The very fact that India continues with the AMCA is an indication that New Delhi had some concerns about the FGFA. Aeronautical Development Agency is an autonomous Body setup under Ministry of Defence, Governmentof India for research and development of

Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. ADA is looking for vendors who can take up Manufacture of the Next Generation Technology Demonstrator (NGTD)" The 16 February 2018 "Expression of Interest Document for Seeking the participation of the Industries in the Manufacture of the Next Generation Technology Demonstrator (NGTD)" stated that "It is required to manufacture, assemble and equip two numbers of fighter aircraft which are named as the Next Generation Technology Demonstrators. Brief details of the dimensions of the aircraft, definition of the modules into which the aircraft is segregated, facilities required for the fabrication, assembly, inspection requirements and the acceptance criteria are given in subsequent sections. Keeping this objective in view, this EOI is being issued to invite those Firms who areinterested in executing the above job with the required facilities, capabilities and capacity. The selected Vendor is likely to be agency for the Prototype manufacture also. ... The aircraft is a twin fin, twin engine configuration with a horizontal tail and a serpentine air intake. The entire external surface is manufactured using Carbon Fibre Composite material."

The Medium Combat Aircraft [MCA] was envisioned as a replacement for the British Jaguar and Mirage 2000 the IAF flies, which as of 2002 were to be phased out by 2015. Development costs were expected to be over US$2 billion. As of mid-1997 the MCA design concept had no vertical stabilizer and employed an advanced flight control system coupled to axisymetric nozzles. At that time, India's DRDO intended to develop a stealthy Medium Combat Aircraft, a further extension of its LCA design, in order to replace the Jaguar and Mirage inventory beginning around 2010. The twin engined aircraft was planned to have a thrust ratio of 7:8:1, and GE, SNECMA, and Klimov all offered to provide the engines for this aircraft.

Representations of the fighter changed often in recent years. The twin-engine, stealthy, multirole fighter was first unveiled at the Aero India show in 2009, in the form of a metal wind-tunnel model. At the show in 2011, a reshaped model revealed an F-22-like appearance. India unveiled an updated design for its Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) with a 1:8-scale model of the concept displayed at Aero India 2013 show in Bengaluru, said to be the final configuration and the one with which the program will proceed.

The design the the concept designers put out in 2013 was strongly reminiscent of the Northrop Grumman YF-23 prototype that lost the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition to the Lockheed YF-22 in 1991 in what became the F-22 program. The AMCA's fuselage was stretched, with symmetric trapezoidal wings, notably losing the leading-edge extensions that were once part of the design. The aircraft had an internal weapons bay and fully indigenous stealth technologies now under development, including radar-absorbent paint and composites.

The co-development of FGFA would help India gather knowledge and experience, cockpit design, composite materials. As of 2011 the AMCA would be a 20t aircraft with a 1,000km range, fitting between the 10t, 500km range of the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas, and the 30t, 1,500km range of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

The highly-classified project was conceived by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) (which works under DRDO but is autonomous) at the behest of Indian Air Force (IAF). The IAF asked ADA to develop to prepare a detailed project report on the development of a Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) incorporating stealth features.

In 2010, ADA sought USD 2 billion (approximately Rs. 9,060 crore) for the development of the fighter plane. ADA completed a feasibility study on the AMCA by the end of FY 2011. The Indian defense ministrys Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) showed a large-scale model of the AMCA at Aero India 2013 in February, in Bengaluru. The aerodynamic shape has been considerably refined in comparison to an earlier model exhibited at Aero India 2011, and even more so when compared to a model for wind-tunnel testing shown at Aero India 2009, at which time it was MCA without being Advanced. This provides evidence that AMCA is being developed in parallel with FGFA.

The AMCA is being designed as an affordable fighter with swing role capability to meet the requirements of the IAF post 2020. The aircraft will incorporate advanced technologies like super maneuverability, super cruise, stealth, state of the art sensor suite with fusion. The AMCA is proposed to be powered by two Kaveri engines optimized for low observable characteristics.

The design-based stealth features will include further optimised airframe shaping, edge matching, body conforming antennae and a low IR signature through nozzle design, engine bay cooling and work on reduced exhaust temperature. The aircraft will have an internal weapons bay and radar-absorbent paint. It is expected to be armed with DRDO's missile Astra and other advanced missiles, stand-off weapons and precision weapons. The aircraft will have the capability to deploy Precision Guided Munitions. The aircraft will feature extended detection range and targeting range with the ability to release weapons at supersonic speeds. The aircraft's avionics suite will include AESA radar, IRST and appropriate electronic warfare systems and all aspect missiles warning suite.

Official information on the AMCA at Aero India 2013 was limited to a one-page leaflet with three views and key marketing terms, such as net-centric warfare, vehicle management (including weapons), data fusion, decision aids, integrated modular avionics, internal carriage of weapons, signature control with sharpening for low observability, AESA radar, IR search-and-track, supersonic persistence, high-speed weapon release and thrust vectoring. It was stated that the aircraft would be able to swing roles variously between long/short-range and air-to-air/ground strike.

Indian Air Force (IAF) boss, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, stated in October 2015 that he was optimistic about the next-generation "Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft" (AMCA) that the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) had begun designing in close partnership with the IAF. Raha said the AMCA will take 15 years of development and prototype testing. He saw the AMCA as the IAF's future, along with the "fifth-generation fighter aircraft" (FGFA) that Russia and India plan to co-develop. The AMCA would come into service around 2030, just in time to replace three types of IAF combat aircraft whose service lives are currently being extended through avionics upgrades (MiG-29 and Mirage 2000), and an engine replacement program (Jaguar).

However, the air chief believed that the AMCA's promise compensated for uncertainty over the FGFA. Says Raha, "If the FGFA comes through it is fine, otherwise the Indian FGFA - that is the AMCA, the advanced medium combat aircraft - we still have over 15 years to work on it before the MiG-29 upgraded aircraft retire, before the Mirage 2000 upgraded ones retire, as well as Jaguar upgraded ones retire in another 15 years."

In contrast to its aloofness from the Tejas program, the IAF has immersed itself in the AMCA program, to the DRDO's pleasant surprise. Raha enthuses, "I am very sure, if we put our hearts and souls together, and if the air force, the DRDO, the ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) and HAL and other agencies involved take joint responsibility, joint accountability and joint ownership, [AMCA] is highly possible."





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