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SOURCE: VISHAL KARPE / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

 

According to the latest Indian media report, India has been working on the development of a Single-engined LCA-5th Generation fighter aircraft which has been rumored for some time but never confirmed but not many are convinced that the latest information might have been a misinformation or a miscommunication since only earlier this year India for the first time had showcased its indeed to develop a Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) which was not a stealth design in any aspect.

Scale model of MWF showcased by ADA and DRDO was confirmed to be the almost final design of the proposed which didn’t showcase any stealth element let alone full stealth capabilities as seen in Pure design concepts like F-35 and F-22 but they were enough rumors back then about additional capabilities that MWF might get which includes special stealth characters in the aircraft which leaves some room for doubt.

Diverterless supersonic intake (DSI)

At Aero India 2019, ADA officials had confirmed that diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) air intake used by some modern combat aircraft like on Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II was simulated and tested using computer-aided Design software but results were not so encouraging and there was no major reduction in the frontal RCS (Radar cross-section (RCS)) due to use of DSI but use of diverterless supersonic intake (DSI) has not been completely ruled out and AMCA might this features.

Serpentine air intake

ADA has done intensive studies on the use of serpentine air intake for the AMCA project and whispers going around at the time of Aero India 2019, also suggests that ADA will incorporate serpentine air intakes for MWF also which is one of the stealth features usually found in the Stealth aircraft. Serpentine air intake design ensures that the engine fan blades are not hit by direct radar waves, air intakes are designed in such way that engine fans are always hidden thus reducing detection.

Special alloys

High Usage of composites in LCA-Tejas program has been in one of the important features of the program which has reduced RCS of the aircraft to a large extent and due to small size factor of the LCA-Tejas due to its compactness, Aircraft has a level of visual stealth and is not easy to spot when flying close to other aircrafts as noted by Su-30 and Mirage-2000 pilots in major multilateral aerial exercises but ADA Team will not only be depended on use of composites but also is planning to use special alloys at certain sections of the fuselage which will absorb radar waves instead of reflecting it back, areas which especially has high chances of exposure to radars.

Extended Retractable IFR probe

Scale model of MWF showcased at Aero India 2019 featured a fixed in-flight refueling (IFR) but that is about to change and as per latest media reports, upgraded Tejas Mk1A might be the first aircraft to get them after tenders for retractable in-flight refueling probe was realized by HAL.

Foreign vendors have been asked to submit their bid and also previously there were reports that Cobham Mission Systems which had supplied fixed n-flight refueling (IFR) probe to the LCA-Tejas Mk1program had offered to design and supply retractable in-flight refueling probe for the program, it is most likely that MWF will also get retractable in-flight refueling probe by the time the first aircraft is ready for first flight in 2023.

Stealth Paint Coat

It’s not hidden fact that developmental work on India’s 5th generation AMCA program had begun much before work on the MWF had begun and the program is likely to benefit the most, due to head start in the AMCA program which includes use of special paint coat which has radar absorbent material to reduce the overhaul RCS of the aircraft. Stealth Paint Coat was developed a few years back by an associated lab of the DRDO and tests have shown a reduction in RCS of a Mig-21 aircraft which was used as a Testbed a few years back. but it is not clear if the paint has been further upgraded.

Conclusion

While they are no confirmed data to back that ADA and IAF are actually working on pure Stealth airframe design but we can’t discount that MWF will not get some of the stealth features. MWF program has been taken up just before the AMCA program and since AMCA program got initial seed money just sometime back but the research and development on the program has been going on for some years now and it is likely that few of the 5th generation technology will be incorporated into MWF in terms of avionics and multi-situational awareness sensors.

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