SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
It’s more or less confirmed that the rollout of the LCA AF Mk2 has been postponed to the end of 2023 or at the worst case it will happen in March 2024 which means the first flight will be further pushed to late 2024 or early 2025 that is coming dangerously close to the AMCA program. AMCA’s timeline will see the first rollout in 2025 and the first flight in 2026 since the LCA AF Mk2 program was seen as the first step toward the realization of the AMCA program, little or no gap between both timelines suggests otherwise.
When LCA AF Mk2 and AMCA program were announced many questioned the need for a 4.5th gen fighter, the rationale put forward was that the LCA AF Mk2 program will bridge the gap between LCA Mk1 and AMCA in terms of technology upgrades and also engineering capacity upgrades but a shift in the timeline means that it is unlikely LCA AF Mk2 will have any major effect on the AMCA program nor it will contribute into creation of the necessary expertise and infrastructure that were to expand after the conclusion of the LCA AF Mk1 program.
Both Program requires nearly 25000 crores of funding and more manpower to execute these two programs that are now running parallel to each other instead of the LCA AF Mk2 program leading the race to be followed by the AMCA program. A country that is yet to expand its Aerospace ecosystem and its Private sector role in the country’s aerospace program should have merged both programs and instead should have worked on developing 4.5 gen and 5th gen based on a common platform like AMCA, an approach that Koreans have adopted for their KF-21 program.
LCA AF Mk2 program had years of a head start yet it failed to take advantage of his head start and now might run parallel with the AMCA program. IAF wanted nearly 200 LCA AF Mk2 when it enter production but it is unclear if it will enter production before 2029-30 provided there is no further slippage in developmental trials this will further set this timeline away making the AMCA program closer to reality.
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