SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
The developmental cost of AMCA is pegged at Rs.15,000 Crore ($1.9 Billion) that includes the cost for the building of 2 Next Generation Technology Demonstrator aircraft (NGTD) and 5 Prototype aircraft and the creation of infrastructure for the production of 16-20 aircraft per annum at a new facility that will come up at the Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor (TNDIC). AMCA Program cost is near twice the amount (Rs.7965.56 Crore ) that the Government had to spend on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Phase-I & Phase-II Programs.
IAF’s commitment to the program when it enters the production stage is for 40 AMCA Mk1 aircraft and 80 AMCA MkII that will require another additional 550-600 crore per-unit costs in a separate deal at later stages. AMCA Program will also include a new engine program for which India will need to spend nearly 12-14,000 Crore while the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program had allocated separate funds of just 3000 crores for the Kaveri engine development program.
AMCA program will be the biggest aerospace program that the country will undertake for the next 20 years once it is cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) likely by end of this year but the IAF requirements are no more than what it wants from the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) for 114 jets. AMCA is a 5th generation fighter jet that can’t be procured in large numbers due to the high overhaul cost of operating a 5th gen fighter but the project requirement is set too low that will ensure that the operating cost of the aircraft will always remain high due to small order book.
In 2040, the First batch of 100 Sukhoi-30MKI might have completed nearly 40 years in service in IAF and will require immediate replacement, and IAF’s own internal combat squadron projection till 2035 indicates that it will barely be able to touch 35 combat squadrons against sanctioned 42 combat squadron.
IAF needs to procure more AMCA MkI even if they are powered by an older engines that can be later swapped so that the production rate per annum can be increased from the very start rather than going up gradually as seen in the LCA-Tejas program and eventually combined AMCA order book should also go up to 250 units. For an air force that has sanctioned combat squadron for 750 jets, operating 250 5th gen platform in 2040-50 period shouldn’t be an issue since these jets will be top tier jets and but unfortunately IAF investment seems to be at mid-tier aircraft type largely made of the 4.5 gen fighter jets that face the risk of becoming obsolete in 2040 era.