India Plans to start the production of the fifth-generation fighter at the end of this decade, despite the final rejection by the government in New Delhi of the machine, which was to be produced in cooperation with Russia as a product using the PAK FA [Su-57] project known as FGFA [Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft
It is supposed in near future the Indian 5th generation fighter to be fully build in the country, thanks to the majority involvement of the domestic private industry in the project.
Thus, the AMCA [Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft] concept, developed independently in the country in accordance with the “Make in India” policy that has been promoted for years, has finally triumphed over the FGFA project. It is also supposed future fighter to be a 5th generation jet, in contrast to the generation 4.5 Rafale [36 copies] that is being introduced to service or the machine that will be selected in the MMRCA program [Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, as part of it is to be purchased 116 machines].
According to the plans just announced, the production of AMCA is expected to start in 2029. This is a very ambitious plan, considering that the South Korean KF-X / Boramae fighter will probably be produced around 2026, and its first serial units will be delivered in 2028. Unlike the Indians, who have at most some theoretical research and concept work behind them [they claim that the design work has been completed, an engine supplier is sought], the Koreans are already building three prototypes, which will begin their first trials next year.
It is also worth adding that the Boramae program was created taking into account certain limitations, thanks to which many technical risks were eliminated and a cost-effective product was to be created. Koreans also cooperate with foreign companies (MBDA, Lockheed Martin), which are donors of many technical solutions, although it is possible that the same will be true in India, which received, among others, invitation to the Tempest program.
Will India manage to repeat the Korean success, or actually create its own machine, in even shorter time? Authorities in New Delhi assume they will do. Their recipe for success is to enter into a joint venture partnership with one of the domestic private companies. A maximum of 49 percent. The state-owned aviation company HAL [Hindustan Aeronautics Limited] together with the DRDO [Defense Research & Development Organization] agency is to have shares in it. At least 51 percent is to be owned by a private company whose profit orientation is expected to add momentum to the entire venture.
The commercialization of the creation of a modern combat aircraft is an interesting idea, somewhat reminiscent of President Barak Obama’s idea of transferring loads into space to private companies and taking it away from the government agency, i.e. NASA. After a decade, this resulted in the creation of solutions presented by SpaceX – several times cheaper than in the case of rockets created under classic government contracts.
Time will show whether a similar idea will work for the construction of a combat aircraft, and AMCA will not be constructed for several dozen years like its predecessor – the HAL Tejas light fighter. In any case, an attempt was made to become independent of slow-operating and ineffective state-owned enterprises.
A private investor in the program is to receive all possible facilities from the Indian state, including, for example, real estate [from HAL] or the already existing know-how. The financial contribution required from the selected company is today estimated at the equivalent of $ 400-500 million. Taking into account that the government side will pay twice as much, the funds for the program seem to be many times smaller than the needs.
For comparison, the very sparingly run Korean program costs almost USD 8 billion, and the costs of the Japanese program are estimated at several times more. It is possible, however, that one billion is the estimated cost of only the first stage of work. It would then be “only 2-3 times lower than, for example, in the British Tempesta program.
It is now assumed that the prototypes would be built in Bangalore; serial production would take place at the existing HAL plant in Nasik. By the time production to be launched in 2028, the entire “ecosystem” of sub-suppliers would be built. In 2024, the first of three planned prototypes is to be revealed. The first flight of the prototype is planned between 2025 and 2026.
The AMCA is to be a single-seater, twin-engine, multi-role combat aircraft with stealth properties and have “sixth generation characteristics”. The assumed features include the ability to maintain supersonic speed without the use of an afterburner [supercruise], the use of AESA radar, high maneuverability, fusion of data from various sensors and the use of advanced avionics. AMCA is to enable the replacement of 3-4 platforms in the Indian Air Force: MiG-27, SEPACAT Jaguar and Mirage 2000, and probably also MiG-29.
In total, India wants to buy 125 machines of this type for seven squadrons. The first two are to be marked Block 1 with imported General Electric 414 engines [used in Gripen E / F, F / A-18E / F Super Hornet, HAL Tejas, and also to be used in Korean KF-X]. Machines for the next five squadrons will already have a domestic production drive and the Block 2 designation.