AERO INDIA: Roadmap revealed for Medium Combat Aircraft

Singapore
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The head of India's Aeronautical Development Agency yesterday revealed key details of the roadmap for development of the proposed indigenous medium combat aircraft (MCA) in an interview with Flight Daily News.

ADA will complete a feasibility study on the MCA by the end of 2011. The study will be submitted to the Indian government and air force, and discuss key aspects of the programme, says PS Subramanyam, programme director at the ADA.

The study will consider several areas: the number of MCA prototypes, prototype timelines, funding, and production schedules for the final aircraft.

"The MCA will be in flight trials by end of the decade, and it will be inducted by the middle of the next decade," says Subramanyam.

tejas, aeronautical development agency
 India's Medium Combat Aircraft will be larger than the Tejas (top), but smaller than the FGFA, Indian variant of the developmental Sukhoi PAK FA (bottom)

Subramanyam also discussed how the MCA will fit into the Indian air force's future force structure. It will be a 20t aircraft with a 1,000km range, fitting between the 10t, 500km range of the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas, and the 30t, 1,500km range of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), an Indian variant of the developmental Sukhoi PAK FA.

Therefore, Subramanyam says, the MCA "does not clash" with the FGFA. He says the MCA will be comparable to the Lockheed Martin F-35, and the FGFA comparable to the F-22 Raptor.

The MCA will be a single seat fighter. A two seat version will be developed, but primarily as a trainer. A naval variant is not envisaged, but Subramanyam foresees a requirement for a 20t aircraft for India's future indigenous aircraft carriers. A naval variant of the Tejas was rolled out in mid-2010. It is likely to have its first flight this year.

In a recent interview with Flight Daily News, IAF Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik said the MCA will be a medium weight combat aircraft with low observable features and a payload capability of more than five tons. It will have swing role capability and "provide greater flexibility in the application of aerospace power".

The ADA has previously said the MCA will have "serpentine-shaped" air intakes, internal weapons bays, and advanced radomes to increase its stealth features. Radar-absorbing composites and paints will supplement the design.

It will be powered by two Kaveri engines optimized for low observable characteristics. The Kaveri, which has suffered considerable delays, is still in development, and will eventually replace General Electric engine in the Tejas.