India is forging ahead with its most challenging fighter programme, the development of its low-observable Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
Director of New Delhi’s Aeronautic Development Agency C.D. Balaji says that the great majority of work for the shape of the AMCA has been completed.
The biggest challenge involves the development of Radar Absorbent Material (RAM).
He alluded to New Delhi’s challenges in the area of radar cross section (RCS) reduction in comments about the collapse of the 2012 deal to buy 126 Dassault Rafale fighters.
There were several issues that caused the Rafale deal to collapse, he says, but he specifically pointed to France’s unwillingness to part with a proprietary RAM that is applied to the Rafale’s canopy. Had the deal moved forward, Rafales completed in India would have been sent to France to receive the coating.
Other low-observable features in the AMCA will be S-shaped engine intake ducts, which help hide the engine from enemy radars, and canted twin tails.
For what ADA calls “stealth mode,” AMCA will carry a mix of four munitions, either bombs or missiles, in an internal bay. For “non-stealth mode” the jet will have fuselage hard points, as well as three additional hardpoints on each wing. The two inboard hardpoints will be able to carry external fuel tanks.
The engine has not been determined, but is likely to be either the General Electric F414, which powers the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, or the Eurojet EJ200, which powers the Eurofighter Typhoon.
At the 2015 iteration of Aero India, an ADA official told FlightGlobal that an advanced version of a local engine, the Gas Turbine Research Establishment Kaveri, could eventually be used in AMCA.
AMCA, as planned, will be capable of super cruise (Mach 1+ speeds without afterburner) and have an active electronically scanned array radar.
Balaji says that once the engine is determined, it will take three or four more years to develop the aircraft.
Prior to the show, Balaji told FlightGlobal that a first flight for the AMCA is planned for 2025. This marks a notable retreat from the ADA’s position in 2013, when a first flight was expected by the end of the decade.