SOURCE: THOMAS D’SOUZA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
With Original MMRCA requirement for 126 aircraft involving comprehensive transfer of technologies of Dassault Rafale could not be pursued and Government of India has now placed an order Two squadrons of the Dassault Rafale instead , lack of clarity and commitment shown by the Government means that long term procurement plans of Indian Air Force are still in Doldrums and replacement plans like purchase of single engine fighter jets and twin engine fighter jets is unlikely to happen for few more years while Indian Air Force continues to see decline in its Fleet strength.
One of the long term solutions for Indian Air Force could be too fast track development of Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program currently developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) rather than resort to expensive import solutions. but is it too late ? or we need more clarity in our objectives to define what do we really require?
AMCA Way to Go?
To carry on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Make in India defence product and to also maintain an autonomy from arms importers then the development of India’s next indigenous fighter aircraft AMCA which is still in development phase holds considerable potential to replace several legacy fighter aircraft of Indian Air Force in Medium weight multi-role category.
ADA which is designing AMCA as a multi-role aircraft with high survivability to meet challenges of future air warfare in the region by Introducing stealth platforms by which perfect balancing act with aerodynamics and stealth characters are required to develop an aircraft which can seamlessly swing between Air to Air and Air to Ground missions.
Air Staff requirement set by Indian Air Force for AMCA clearly defines AMCA to be ahead by at least One generation when compared to the platform currently operated by Indian Air Force. Air Staff requirements issued by Indian Air Force in 2010 clearly defines that Next Gen fighter should Incorporate Stealth features, Engines should have the ability to super cruise and the air frame is fully integrated with smart sensors and can carry advanced weaponry both Internally and Externally.
Unlike other 5th Generation projects which were conceived in 90’s or in 80’s, while AMCA relatively follows new design philosophy which has incorporated all the latest design studies and is still going through design optimization process and many key technologies like AESA Radar, Engines and Sensors is unlikely to be passed on from other 4.5++ Generation aircraft .
AMCA program was expected to receive a formal approval by end of 2016 but we have already crossed mid of 2017 and yet the government has not given final approval for the program. Crucial for the program success will be the timelines for its development and series production but due to considerable delays already faced it is now expected that the prototype aircraft will only be ready by 2025 rather than earlier plans of 2020.
Three-decade old journey in the development of light combat aircraft has been long and torturous and production of LCA Tejas MK1 is yet to stabilize before focus shifts to the development of upgraded LCA Tejas MK1-A which will only enter production only By 2022 due to which considerable delays in the development of Tejas mark 2 has been noted.
Indian Air Force will have to decide, what it wants ! and if it wants to continue with Tejas Mark 2 project or back development of 5th generation AMCA project. Indian Air Force for long has been accused of liking strategic long term planning by backing and Fast tracking Next Generation Indigenous fighter aircraft program and Indian Air Force will have an opportunity to break free from their past.