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The Indian Air Force’s dream of a domestically-built fifth-generation fighter jet, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), inches closer to reality, albeit with a revised timeline. According to DRDO Chief Dr. Samir V Kamat, the AMCA Phase-I, equipped with the GE-F414 engine, could take its first flight within seven years, with the first induction potentially happening ten years down the line.

This revised timeline, however, sparks questions. Earlier, DRDO had confidently claimed a three-year timeframe for the first flight after receiving Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) clearance. With CCS approval still pending and a budget of Rs. 15,000 crore requested, the wait for the AMCA seems to be stretching.

Sources familiar with the program suggest Dr. Kamat’s seven-year estimate might be a conservative one, intended to avoid criticism. They believe the first flight could occur within four years after CCS clearance, potentially as early as 2028. This aligns with the earlier three-year claim, albeit with a crucial caveat: the CCS nod is still missing.

Despite the optimism, the AMCA program faces challenges. Securing CCS approval and funding is crucial. Additionally, the indigenous development of certain critical technologies, like the Kaveri engine, adds complexity and potential delays.

For the Indian Air Force, the AMCA is a game-changer. It would offer capabilities on par with advanced jets like the F-35 and Rafale, bolstering India’s airpower and reducing dependence on imports. The AMCA program’s success hinges on overcoming these challenges. Streamlining the approval process, ensuring timely funding, and accelerating technological development are critical. Transparent communication with the public and stakeholders will also be crucial to maintain optimism and support.

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