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OpinionsFifth-generation stealth jet to be a reality soon

Fifth-generation stealth jet to be a reality soon


makes a significant stride in its programme with the approval of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project

Rahul Kamble

The Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the project to design and develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) on March 7. This aircraft will be a fifth-generation, medium-weight stealth fighter jet. The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is spearheading the project, valued at around Rs 15,000 crore. Under this project, DRDO's Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) will collaborate with various private and public sector agencies to develop the stealth jet and associated . It's anticipated that approximately five prototypes will be built within a span of five years. The manufacturing of these prototypes will involve the public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This endeavour will propel India into a select group of nations either possessing or developing 5th generation fighter jets.

A fifth-generation fighter jet possesses four primary attributes. Firstly, it boasts stealth capabilities, rendering it nearly invisible to enemy radars due to its minimized radar cross-section. Secondly, it can achieve ‘Supercruise', enabling it to fly faster than the speed of sound without relying on fuel-intensive afterburners. Thirdly, it is equipped with advanced avionics, sensors, and network-centric operations. Increasingly, artificial intelligence is being integrated to enhance the pilot-aircraft interface, allowing a single pilot to manage both flight and combat operations. Lastly, it has the ability to outperform adversaries by detecting and engaging targets from considerable distances, facilitated by active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. Achieving stealth involves meticulously shaping the aircraft to scatter radar waves rather than reflecting them, in addition to employing specialized materials and paints known as ‘Radar Absorbing Structures' to further minimize radar reflectivity. In stealth mode, these fighters conceal their weapons within internal bays, relying solely on internally-carried fuel to avoid radar detection, as external weapons or fuel tanks compromise stealth by reflecting radar waves.

The AMCA is slated for development in two phases. Phase 1 will result in the AMCA Mk-1, powered by the US GE-414 engine. Phase 2 will see the development of the AMCA Mk-2, featuring a more advanced and powerful engine. However, it's important to note that the projected induction of the AMCA by 2035 may not result in a ‘Completely 5th-generation fighter aircraft'.

China is poised to surpass the US in stealth aircraft production. China's J-20A Mighty Dragon, its first fifth-generation fighter, was expected to outnumber the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor fleet last year. Notably, the F-22 Raptor, the first operational fifth-generation fighter, has ceased production, with the US focusing on the more cost-effective F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter family. India withdrew from the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft program (FGFA) in April 2018, a joint effort with Russia aimed at developing an India-specific variant of the Russian Su-57 stealth fighter. Following a series of challenges, India's indigenous LCA Tejas has been inducted by the Indian Air Force. Despite this, India's fighter squadron strength continues to decline, falling short of the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. New Delhi is exploring various options to bolster squadron numbers, recognising that a few Rafale and Tejas LCA squadrons are insufficient to bridge the gap. From the Indian Air Force's perspective, the urgency and importance of acquiring manned stealth fighters necessitate Cabinet Committee on Security approval for the AMCA project. While the project has received the much-awaited green light, it's crucial to remain vigilant regarding potential pitfalls and the project's impact on the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities. With meticulous planning and execution, it could prove to be a game-changer.


(The author is a freelance writer, views are personal)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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