New Delhi: India plans to roll out its first indigenous fifth-generation combat aircraft in five years of project approval, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman Dr G. Satheesh Reddy has said.
The DRDO will aim to deliver the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), as the Indian fifth generation fighter jet project is called, to the Indian Air Force (IAF), in the same configuration as its requirement, Reddy said in an interview published by the Economic Times today.
“It is our endeavor to develop the fifth-generation advanced multi-role combat aircraft (AMCA) as per the project schedule to meet the Air Force’s requirements. We should be in a position to roll out the first AMCA within five years of project approval. We are not comparing AMCA with other aircraft, but are trying to meet the specifications given to us by IAF,” the DRDO Chairman, who is also the Secretary of the Department of Defence Research and Development of the Government India, is quoted as saying.
IAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R. K. S. Bhadauria, during his customary annual press meet here on Oct. 4 had said the air force backed the AMCA project fully, including with budgets, and that this would be the future fifth generation fighter jet of the IAF fleet.
The Indian military research agency and the IAF have already frozen the configuration of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas‘ MkII and its qualitative requirements have been finalised. The DRDO will now work on the Tejas MkII as the next aircraft for delivery to the IAF.
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the production agency of the LCA, is readying to manufacture the Tejas Mk1 aircraft in its Final Operational Clearance, even as it awaits a firm order from the IAF for 83 Tejas Mk1A aircraft, after having responded to the Request for Proposals issued by the Ministry of Defence.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria had said that there were deviations noticed in the pricing of the Tejas Mk1A quoted by HAL and the Contract Negotiation Committee was looking into rectifying the same, before the contract is signed.
Reddy also said an indigenous fighter jet aeroengine would be a priority for DRDO, as it provides India strategic autonomy. “The development of an indigenous jet engine through the Kaveri programme has boosted the know-how and industrial ecosystem in the country,” he said.
Though DRDO is “open” to foreign collaboration on the aeroengine project, it would continue to work with academia, industry and Defence Public Sector Undertakings to develop a high-thurst engine. “At present, we are working on the flagship programme to develop an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. It requires an advanced 110kN thrust class engine.”
India’s DRDO had previously tied up with French aeroengine maker erstwhile Snecma (currently Safran Aircraft Engines) to develop the Kaveri engine with 90kN thrust, but it could achieve only just over 70kN thrust and hence was abandoned as the aeroengine to power the Tejas Mk2 aircraft, for which the GE Aviation‘s F-414 has already been chosen.
However, in the recent months, there have been talks between DRDO and French firm Safran to revive the Kaveri aeroengine programme, as part of the IAF’s Rafale combat jet deal offsets. The revival discussion happened when India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh was in France on Oct. 8 for Rafale delivery acceptance event. The Kaveri-as-an-offset- programme talks had fallen through once earlier this year.