The government is likely to approve India’s homegrown fifth-generation fighter programme – the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) – by mid-year, with design, development and first prototypes set to cost around ₹15,000 crore, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.
The Indian Air Force’s modernisation map envisages the deployment of around 240 stealth fighters (six squadrons) 2032 onwards, with the stealth planes forming an important element of future air combat, said a senior official, one of the people cited above.
AMCA will be developed in two phases.
“The first two squadrons will consist of MK-1 version of AMCA. The remaining four squadrons will be raised with a more advanced MK-2 version with a raft of sixth-generation technologies,” said a second official. Sixth-generation technologies are more advanced than those in any fighter jet currently in service globally.
The stealth fighter could be put into production in the next seven to eight years, Hindustan Times has learnt.
The MK-1 stealth fighters will be powered by American GE414 engines, with indigenous engines likely to replace the imported power plant in the Mk 2 version, said a third official. “AMCA is a top focus area for the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and IAF is firmly backing the project,” he said.
DRDO is looking at incorporating sixth-generation technologies in AMCA. There is a possibility of equipping AMCA with directed energy weapons, superior anti-missile systems, advanced missile approach warning systems and teaming it with unmanned systems, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said at Aero India-2021 last month.
Experts said AMCA will be a crucial indigenous project.
It will take Indian research and development and defence manufacturing to a much higher scale in terms of technology, said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies. “It is imperative that the timeline laid down for the project is practical since breakthrough technologies will be getting implemented and the IAF’s operational plans will depend on it,” Bahadur added.
India was earlier planning to co-develop a stealth fighter with Russia, but the proposed multi-billion dollar fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project was abandoned after IAF expressed strong reservations about the project due to high cost and the extent of technology transfer.
Boosting indigenisation in the defence sector is a top priority for the government. India has set aside ₹70,221 crore — 63% of the military’s capital budget for 2021-22 — for buying locally produced weapons and systems.
The allocation for indigenous procurement – made for the second consecutive year – will power the purchase of TEJAS MK-1A jets, light combat helicopters, basic trainer aircraft, Arjun Mk-1A tanks, Astra beyond-visual-range missiles, Pinaka rocket systems and anti-tank missiles, as previously reported.