AMCA v/s. MWF Tejas:- Future of Indian Airfore
The Indian Air force will soon be armed with 06 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters and may place them strategically to demonstrate power projection on China’s PLAAF. But as most big airforce’s of the world are entering into a new era of stealth combat technology and satellite warfare, the IAF is slowly moving ahead by acquiring imported aircrafts.
The IAF is facing a strong and colossal enemy, the PLAAF which has already claimed to induct aircraft with stealth technology ( though there is good amount of doubt regarding the claims of its “ indigenous” technology ). It is a direct threat to the IAF as the Chinese have developed not one but two types of stealth aircrafts.
The Chengdu J-20 of the PLAAF is stated to be designed as an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability. It is something the PLAAF has demonstrated as the future of its combat power before the world since early 2011. This aircraft is already operational since 2017, as claimed by China.
Soon, they also revealed to the world, an aircraft with the intention to be made commercially available for stealth technology seeking countries and countries involved in regular conflicts (read Pakistan). The Shenyang J-31 is described as an export-oriented low-end latest generation warplane. Initial operational capability of the aircraft was expected in 2020.
Now, in the midst of such a challenging the IAF is left with two options HAL Tejas MK2 / Medium Weight Fighter programme which is a 4+ generation fighter programme which is claimed to incorporate new AESA Radar, on-board oxygen-generating system, Internal advanced electronic warfare (EW) suite and a host of other modern control features. It is an entirely new fighter jet that is expected to first fly around 2023-24.
The other option is AMCA (Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft) it is stated to be a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. AMCA is a single-seat, twin-engine, Stealth all-weather multirole fighter aircraft. The AMCA is intended to be the backbone of the IAF in the coming future.
Now details related to this aircraft are a bit sketchy but the present state of the project seems has moved ahead. It is stated to perform all the roles of a multirole combat aircraft in addition to its most important Stealth Feature. Its claimed to combine various features like supercruise, stealth, GaN based AESA radar, high maneuverability, and advanced avionics to overcome and suppress previous generation fighter aircraft .
A proposed design of the AMCA
This program is very important to the IAF and there are no better words to describe its importance than to quote the then Chief of Indian Air Staff, RKS Bhadauria in a briefing in October 2019,” DRDO “must” make the project happen. Indian Air Force wants to have “full control” in “defining” technologies of aircraft and supports indigenous fifth generation fighter aircraft as it becomes restricted for IAF when purchasing a foreign system.
The AMCA is likely to be integrating new generation GaN based AESA radar for superior detection and performance. Currently, there is hardly any fighter jet that has been armed with such a radar. However, ground based radars are available with GaN transceiver modules. Now there is some information regarding these radars :
The speciality of the GaN based AESA radar is that it requires multiple, compact power amplifiers, that is high level of output power in a small space which requires a solution with high power density and wide bandwidth – an ideal use case for gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology. That seems truly next level stuff suiting the AMCA.
It’s claimed that the AMCA (Next Gen Technology Demonstrator) will be ready by early 2022–23 or before and HAL may start flying a series production aircraft first flight of fully developed AMCA by 2032 with the low rate initial production. If all things goes per schedule. It seems smart to rather invest in Fifth Generation stealth aircraft that may be ready by 2032. Than invest in a 4+ generation aircraft which will again be ready only around 2030.
The HAL and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) are in the process of making a joint venture company to execute the AMCA program. The joint venture company will be a three-way partnership between HAL, DRDO (via ADA) and an Indian private sector firm to execute timely completion and speedy manufacturing of the aircraft.
The depleting squadron strength of the IAF can only be dealt by strengthening and increasing the production of Tejas FOC (which is a 4+ generation aircraft) which has features to compensate the retiring aircraft within the next decade and concentrate on the production lines for the AMCA to get ready. The procurement of 126+ multirole aircraft within time will ensure boosting of morale in the IAF.
ORCA Fighter Plane
Twin-engine Medium Class Omni-Role Combat Aircraft (ORCA) or Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) program born out of the necessity of the carrier-based requirements of the Indian Navy after it rejected plans to develop a single-engine fighter jet based on the LCA-Navy Mk2 concept which was rejected by the Navy due to various reasons but the questions remains will IAF will be part of the project which is not planned by it?
IAF version of TEDBF called Omni Role Combat Aircraft (ORCA), will be the same aircraft minus TEDBF’s landing gears, Tailhook, foldable wings some Navy instruments, and electronics. ORCA will also be lighter by 1.5tonnes due to lighter mid and rear fuselage section but there won’t be any major design changes in IAF’s version but it will be identical in terms of design, features, and performance if the project gets a go-head by IAF. The development of ORCA might not be done parallelly but only once TEDBF Prototype is available for testing and evaluation purposes for IAF.
IAF has given fully backing Tejas Mk2 and AMCA program and already has committed to procure 100 aircraft types each. Initially, IAF had agreed to procure 200 Tejas Mk2 jet but later curtailed it to 100 jets, which many see was possibly done to make room for ORCA in near future But people close to idrw.org believe that ultimately it will come down to Operational capabilities and cost at the end since both Tejas Mk2 and ORCA will have same avionics, Radar, electronics and engines, it will depend on which of the two will emerge as better aircraft at the end because Tejas Mk2 won’t enter production till 2028 and TEDBF will be ready in 2026, IAF will be a good position to decide on procurement of ORCA by then or continue procurement of Tejas Mk2 beyond 100 jets which already has been committed.