The Indian air force has approached the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which designed and developed India's fourth-generation Tejas light combat aircraft, to prepare a detailed project report on the development of 20t medium combat aircraft (MCA) with stealth features.
To help phase out the air force's Dassault Mirage 2000 and Hindustan Aeronautics-built Sepecat Jaguar strike aircraft by around 2015, the proposed twin-engined MCA would also augment the service's Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and its planned future fleet of at least 126 medium multirole combat aircraft.
Strategic analysts in India believe the air force's involvement augurs well for speeding up the project, as the service only had a peripheral role in developing the delayed Tejas, which is expected to be inducted into service from 2010. The new aircraft is also expected to use radar asorbent materials developed in India to reduce its radar cross-section.
The MCA is expected to be powered by a higher-thrust version of the Gas Turbine Research Establishment Kaveri engine to potentially be developed in co-operation with Snecma. The air force has formed a committee to analyse the French company's offer of assistance, and will study issues such as cost, manufacturing details and technology transfer for the design, which could take five or six years to gain certification.
The Kaveri has proven unsuitable to power the single-engined Tejas, with a replacement engine to be selected from either the Eurojet EJ200 or General Electric F414.
Meanwhile, India's plan to participate in a fifth-generation fighter project with Russia is expected to be finalised by year-end, with HAL's role yet to be defined. United Aircraft president Alexey Fedorov says a prototype of the aircraft will be ready for trials during 2009.