SOURCE: Satyajeet Kumar/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Indian Navy have agreed to disagree that the whole rational idea of building a Carrier based Naval next-generation stealth fighter, Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) first before Airforce variant has been rejected and ADA will continue to build Airforce variant first as per latest media reports.
ADA is simply not buying Navy’s argument that once Naval-AMCA is developed first it will be easier to develop or adapt that into an Airforce variant like emulated by French in their Dassault Rafale programme where Carrier based Dassault Rafale was first to be developed and later based on that an Airforce variant was developed.
ADA believes that using Basic Naval Airframe to develop an Airforce variant will lead to bulky, blocky fuselage that will limit aerodynamic performance which will make it fall short of performance requirements demanded by the Airforce. common design features will be superficial on the surface and commonality will be limited to only to cockpit avionics.
While it might sound good in theory to have only minor differences between the Air Force’s AMCA and the Navy’s AMCA but practically it is near impossible to achieve.
Now Let’s look at the JSF program where initial idea was to have 70-percent commonality between all three variant but the final commonality was less than 30-percent and largely limited to cockpit avionics. Both Naval and Airforce F-35 Variant had to be built at different production lines and also have different developmental flight trials in parallel trying to meet contradictory requirements set by each team.
Adapting an Airforce variant into a Naval Variant or vice versa have worked perfectly well in the past because to convert a basic 4th Generation design required changes to the wing and strengthen fuselage but doing that involving Stealth technology complicates the design process it is simply not easy to achieve performance requirements set by each branch.
Naval-AMCA will also need to make space for structural reinforcements and have the ability to carry additional fuel and not to forget reinforced landing gears, tail hooks, and larger wings to for increased low-speed control for carrier landings. Naval-AMCA will also weigh more due to the strengthening of the air frame which might result in additional thrust requirements required by the Naval-AMCA to make carrier takeoffs with reasonable weapons load and fuel.
Twin 110Kn Thrust Class engine requirement set by ADA and IAF for the powerplant to power Airforce variant of AMCA was done without factoring in the possible Thrust requirement for a carrier-based Naval-AMCA. ADA had factored in that at some point of time in future, AMCA will require additional 10Kn thrust to meet possible future power demands of upgraded AMCA but for Naval-AMCA new studies have to be sanctioned since till now only Project feasibility studies have been carried out which is very basic in nature.
We for sure know that AMCA and Naval-AMCA will be a reality and experienced gained in the manufacture of an Airforce variant first will help largely in the process to develop a carrier-based variant but it will be very difficult to maintain a very high level of commonality which will make program way more expensive and will also require higher involvement by the Navy .