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The Asian race to develop 5th generation fighter jets is heating up, with South Korea and Turkey achieving significant milestones in their respective programs, the KF-21 and TF-X (TAI KAAN). This raises concerns about India’s own AMCA program, which appears to be lagging behind despite the country’s need for advanced fighter aircraft.

Both South Korea and Turkey have demonstrated remarkable urgency in their 5th gen programs. Both programs received national priority status, enabling faster development and overcoming bureaucratic hurdles. While the KF-21 lacks an internal weapons bay (IWB) and initial deployments will be limited, it serves as a stepping stone towards a fully fledged 5th gen fighter within a decade. Similarly, the TF-X, despite relying on older American engines for now, is actively developing its own powerplant.

In stark contrast, India’s AMCA program suffers from a lack of urgency and decisive action. The program, still awaiting crucial funding approvals, is hampered by unclear timelines and indecision about key aspects like engine development and private sector participation. DRDO and ADA, the lead agencies, seem unable to provide concrete milestones, raising doubts about whether the AMCA will be ready for mass production even by 2035.

India’s AMCA program has the potential to be a game-changer, but its current trajectory is worrisome. By emulating the urgency and decisiveness displayed by South Korea and Turkey, and addressing the program’s key challenges, India can still achieve its goal of developing a cutting-edge 5th generation fighter jet and secure its strategic interests in the long run.

The 5th generation fighter jet race is a critical arena for airpower dominance. While India has the potential to join the ranks of leading developers, its AMCA program requires immediate attention and strategic action to catch up and avoid falling behind.

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