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India’s quest for self-reliance in advanced fighter jet technology remains on track, albeit facing delays and budgetary hurdles. Two ambitious projects, the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the 5 Minus Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), stand poised to propel the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, respectively, to the forefront of aerial combat.

The highly anticipated AMCA, designed with stealth capabilities to rival the likes of the F-35, has encountered an unexpected pause. Initial projections of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) clearance in mid-2023 haven’t materialized, pushing the decision to at least after the upcoming general elections. Officials, however, remain optimistic, suggesting clearance by mid-year 2024. This project carries a hefty price tag of over Rs 15,000 crore, highlighting the immense investment India is willing to make in bolstering its airpower.

The TEDBF program, dedicated to equipping the Indian Navy with a domestically-built carrier-borne fighter, has made significant progress. Completion of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) last year marks a crucial milestone, offering the government and navy a first glimpse into the aircraft’s design. While CCS clearance for TEDBF may take longer, hopes are high for a decision by late 2024 or early 2025, once the Critical Design Review (CDR) of all systems is completed. This project comes with a Rs 14,000 crore price tag, further underscoring India’s commitment to bolstering its naval prowess.

Post-clearance, both programs face the long and arduous journey towards prototype development and test flights. Experts estimate a three-year timeframe for the TEDBF prototype and a four-year wait for its maiden flight. The AMCA timeline may be slightly longer, considering its advanced nature.

Funding and technological complexity remain key challenges for both projects. India’s growing experience in developing indigenous fighter jets, exemplified by the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, offers valuable lessons and capabilities. Additionally, partnerships with foreign aerospace giants can provide crucial technological expertise and support.

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