Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft: 30 Key Facts

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India’s middle-order woes may have cost us the World Cup, but building the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft is the need of the hour if we hope to create a strong air force in the coming years.

The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, or the AMCA, is probably the most ambitious weapon system of its kind ever attempted by India, after the Hypersonic Missile program and the Indigenously Developed Aircraft Carrier (IAC).

Currently, India operates a smattering of aircraft from Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the U.S. (the C-17 Globemaster III). None are up to the 5th gen fighter standard, which is why the AMCA was planned.

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It is proposed as a multi-role combat aircraft designed for air superiority, ground attack, bombing, interception and will come with supercruise, a stealthy frame, advance avionics, an AESA radar, and an electronic countermeasures suite.

So here’s what we know so far about the AMCA, based on news reports;

  1. The production will start only once the design of the Tejas Mark II is finalized
  2. The design is being carried out by the Aeronautical Development Agency, with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited taking control of the manufacturing
  3. It will be the third supersonic aircraft of Indian origin after the HAL Marut and the HAL Tejas
  4. Naval variants have been planned from the outset, indicating that it will form a bulk of the carrier-borne fighter fleet
  5. The AMCA will complement the Rafale, the SU-30MKI, the Tejas, Naval Tejas, and the MiG29K when operational
  6. The indigenously designed aircraft will replace the SEPECAT Jaguar, the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-27
  7. The AMCA was to be powered by the troubled Kaveri engines but will use the General Electric F414 engine instead
  8. The GE engines offer a thrust of 90kN, but the ADA-HAL team is working on a 110kN engine that will be used in the future versus the 84kN F404 engine used in the LCA Tejas
  9. Four prototypes will be flown by 2025, with testing supposed to have commenced in 2019
  10. 10 years after the feasibility studies began, the three-year detailed design phase (DDP) has begun, and this has already received an INR 400-crore grant
  11. The initial development cost to build 4–5 prototypes is pegged at INR 4–5000 crores
  12. A strategic partner will be chosen, with a contract for 110 fighters signed between ADA-HAL and the supplier
  13. The aircraft uses a Pelikan Tail, an experimental design first introduced in the Boeing X-32 Joint Strike Fighter
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14. Hyderabad-based VEM Technologies will design the composite airframe and outline the fabrication processes required, according to an announcement made during Aero India 2019

15. VEM is also making a full-scale model, which will be tested at the DRDO’s Orange Facility in Hyderabad or the Defence Laboratory at Jodhpur, where it will be subject to radar cross-section measurements

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16. 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 intakes (DSI) are some of the key features of the AMCA

17. Here is an infographic about the production partners involved in the LCA, who may in all likelihood, also work on the AMCA program

18. The planned purchase of 114 fighter aircraft will definitely include a clause to co-develop the AMCA

19. While the F-22 seems to have contributed to its looks, the AMCA will look more like the X-36 developed by McDonnell-Douglas, at least from the front

20. The AMCA will most likely have rounded exhausts to reduce its radar and thermal signature

21. Previous renderings of the AMCA indicated that the fighter will feature a Beyond Visual Range missile

19. Currently, the Sudarshan laser-guided bomb and the Astra air-to-air missile are the two most AMCA-capable weapon systems

20. An internal 23mm gun was in the original design parameters and the ADA will most probably be including a Russian Gsh-23 cannon in the finished product, too

21. The Infrared Search and Track System will be made of a rare material called Leuco-Sapphire or white sapphire, an incredibly hard, transparent material which will have to be imported

22. Whether the AMCA will have an electro-optical targeting system is still unclear, although the F-35 and the Chinese J-20 are equipped with EOTS

23. The AMCA, with an internal fuel capacity of 4000 kg, has an estimated combat range of 1,000 km, which is the same as aircraft that weigh twice as much (F-35), according to the designers

24. This infographic illustrates the Indian states and cities that will contribute to AMCA design, development and production

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25. The AMCA functions on one key design principle, ‘creation of space’, which mandates the miniaturization of as many components as possible, resulting in stealth and advanced sensor capabilities

26. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft will have to avoid detection by L and X-band radars, and this can be achieved only by high-quality construction as any poorly-built parts will increase the radar cross-section

27. The fighter aircraft will be net-centric, but the system will use multiple layers of Indian, Israeli, Russian and French communications network to achieve that

28. According to a news report, private players will be assembling and equipping both the LCA and the AMCA, something never seen before

29. Private aircraft research establishments in Sulur, Coimbatore, will play a key role in the development of future fighter development, and for the first time, aircraft R&D will move out of Bangalore

30. Key technical details like the service ceiling, max takeoff weight, and max speed will differ from what we know once the 110kN engine is fitted

The Light Combat Aircraft, in spite of taking over thirty years to develop, still leaves a lot to desire, according to the Indian Air Force. But let’s also consider this; the development of the LCA took us on a journey during which we had to literally reinvent the wheel. We’re already making a fourth-gen aircraft, the Tejas, and should do an even better job with the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft

Jai Hind.

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Adreesh Ghoshal

Adreesh Ghoshal

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Automobile Engineer. Content Writer. Biker. Defense Enthusiast. Indian.