Friday 20 May 2022, 07:19 AM
Efforts on to realize Indigenous AMCA dream
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 11/1/2019 3:32:00 PM
Efforts on to realize Indigenous AMCA dream

Onus on indigenization of fighter jets

As the Indian Air Force (IAF) grapples with a declining strength of its fighter jet fleet, there is hope on the horizon. It comes in many ways, one is future technologies, the other is increasing existing orders besides the upgrades. IAF is operating with 32 squadrons against the mandated 42 for a simultaneous two-front war.

In case of future technologies, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) being designed and developed indigenously has now gone into the detailed design phase (DDP) which is expected to be completed by 2021. The AMCA will be a fifth generation stealth fighter jet and expected to form the principal fighting arm of the country’s air power.The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are now finding solutions to a number of next-generation technologies that need to be proven in the aircraft which promises to propel India into the next league.

It will be built with a selected strategic partner. The foreign manufacturer who will win the bid for making the 110 fighter jets under the SP Model will be the obvious partner for the AMCA. The Request for Information (RFI) of the 110 jets has been issued and it mandates Transfer of Technology (ToT) to Indian partner. The foreign company winning the tender could be the automatic choice for AMCA and will get due weightage.The project definition phase (PDP) has been done, the ADA, which also designed the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, is spearheading the AMCA mission.

As of now the AMCA will be powered by a US-origin GE F414 engine with a thrust of over 90kN. It will be an interim step till a higher-thrust engine of 110kN is finalised. The F414 engine, is also set to power the Tejas Mk-II. New Delhi is in talks with a foreign partner to develop an engine with a higher thrust.The plan is to build four prototypes and fly the first one before 2025, which is six years from now.  The feasibility study for the AMCA began in 2009 with an initial funding of Rs 90 crore. In 2017, about Rs 400 crore were allocated for the detail design phase (DDP).

AMCA has been designed with multi-disciplinary approach. Various labs of the DRDO are doing R&D on materials, paints and structures. Separate studies are under way on flight control, avionics, aerodynamics, composite structure and general systems like brakes, hydraulics and fuels systems.The teams are also working on the super-cruise abilities that give aircraft capability to fly at supersonic speeds without the afterburner.

Passive sensors, internal weapon bay, advanced integrated avionics, next-generation active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, 360-degree enhanced situation awareness, integrated vehicle monitoring system (IVHM), serpentine air intake, infrared search and track (IRST), missile approach warning system (MAWS) and diverterless supersonic intake (DSI) are some of the features being claimed by Indian scientists that will make AMCA a powerful fighting machine.

The AMCA team is going on two major ways of making the plane stealthier. One is geometric stealth and other is material stealth. In geometric stealth, the shape of the aircraft is designed at such angles so as to deflect away maximum radar waves thereby minimising its radar cross section. In material stealth, radar-absorbing materials are used in making the aircraft which will absorb the radio waves thus reducing the radar footprint. The AMCA will initially be based on geometric stealth; we can look at material stealth at a later stage.

The existing platforms: India’s home-grown fighter which started with the Tejas is now on an upswing. The Tejas Mark II is headed for its first flight in 2022.  The confidence in and lessons from LCA will act as a ready-reckoner. The Tejas Mark II is also now known as the MWF (Medium Weight Fighter). The prototype will be ready by end-2021.
The LCA Tejas Mark 1 weighs 6.5 tonnes, the MWF is the next class and targeted to weigh around 17 tonnes.The LCA Tejas mark  1 that is called the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) version have been delivered. The 20 jets under the Final Operational Clearance (FoC) version will start production this year and will be done in two years.

The main stay will be the 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk1A. Apurva Chandra, Director General (DG) (Acquisition) in the Defence Ministry speaking at seminar in New Delhi in first week of September said that pricing issue has been sorted.He said: “Pricing of the LCA, which was under discussion with the costing committee, has been finalised at a meeting with the Secretary of Defence Production. Now, discussion for the support package is on. That also should be finalised in a month or two. So we should be in a position to sign the contract for the aircraft in the next 3-4 months,”

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had given the initial clearance for the 83 LCA-Mk1A aircraft in November 2016 and the IAF issued the Request For Proposal (RFP) in December 2017. However, negotiations have been stuck due to the steep price quoted by the HAL which, the IAF had said, was more than the price of a Su-30MKI.The last issue is of the Jaguar. The IAF may opt to start a phased de-commissioning starting 2023. It will be spread across  till 2038 and has come about as the IAF feels that the engine upgrade planed with Honeywell engines was too expensive and has opted to get unused MiG 29 besides some new Sukhoi 30 from Russia.

Meanwhile, the first Jaguar with DARIN-III upgrades is ready and has been completed. It is now ready for customer acceptance trials. The upgrade being done by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is a few years behind schedule. The DARIN-III upgrades include a new radar, a fully integrated electronic warfare suite, smart multi-function displays, new avionics, and a new attack system.The HAL will upgrade 56 Jaguars to DARIN-III standard, and the project will be completed by 2024.





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