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The Indian defence scene has been buzzing with discussions about a potential deck-based version of the AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) – the N-AMCA – for the Indian Navy. However, People familiar with the program have finally spilled the beans and have told that this project was shelved in favour of a more practical solution which was TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter).

When the AMCA program began for the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Navy saw an opportunity. They envisioned a carrier-borne variant the N-AMCA that could leverage the AMCA’s technology while offering the Navy a 5th-generation fighter jet. This approach promised cost savings due to its commonality with the IAF version.

However, developing a carrier-worthy AMCA proved problematic for ADA which later submitted a report to the Navy on its feasibility studies carried out by the organisation where was told that The AMCA’s design would have required significant undercarriage modifications to withstand the harsh impacts of carrier landings, that could have resulted into Frequent deck landings that could have damaged the N-AMCA’s stealth coatings, leading to a higher need for inspections and repairs. This could translate to more aircraft undergoing maintenance, fewer might be available for active duty. An estimate by ADA was a potential shortfall from a desired 33 mission-ready aircraft on a 45-unit carrier to just 22 units.

ADA also has estimated that Operating the N-AMCA on board could be 25-30% more expensive compared to the IAF’s AMCA due to the unique demands of carrier operations. ADA was also not sure if the N-AMCA’s stealth properties might have remained uncompromised by the highly humid conditions of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Faced with these challenges, the Navy and ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) decided to pursue the TEDBF. Often referred to as a “5th-Minus” jet, the TEDBF offers significant advantages over N-AMCA since TEDBF is Designed from the ground up for carrier use, the TEDBF avoids the landing gear and stealth concerns that plagued the N-AMCA concept.

The TEDBF is likely to be more affordable to operate and maintain compared to a potential N-AMCA. While not a full-fledged 5th-generation aircraft, the TEDBF offers advanced capabilities exceeding those of current 4.5-generation fighters.

The decision to prioritize the TEDBF signifies a strategic shift towards a more practical and affordable solution for the Indian Navy’s carrier-borne fighter needs. While the dream of a true 5th-generation deck fighter might persist, the TEDBF offers a compelling option for bolstering India’s naval air power soon.

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