Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft or AMCA is an Indian fifth-generation stealth fighter that is being developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). As India has previously withdrawn from the Indo-Russian FGFA program, AMCA remains India’s only ongoing fifth-generation fighter. Team Guarding India brings you the story of India’s stealth fighter.
The ADA describes the AMCA as single-seat, twin-engine, multirole stealth fighter capable of carrying out air superiority, point air defence, deep penetration, ground strike, and special missions that make it “Omnirole” like Dassault Rafale. The AMCA will have an empty weight of 16-18 tons. AMCA will have a max speed of 1.8 Mach or more with a service ceiling of 15 km. In addition to stealth technology, AMCA will also have a host of advanced features including advanced AESA radar, supercruise, super maneuverability, advanced avionics, and cutting-edge weaponry.
Since its inception AMCA is being designed as multirole fighter aircraft. The current AMCA design has diamond-shaped trapezoidal wings that reduce drag at transonic speeds for fuel-efficiency. It has a reduced number of flight control surfaces that also serve as airbrakes to avoid using dedicated air brakes. AMCA has an F-22 style single bubble canopy cockpit which provides excellent visibility to the pilot. To reduce cost, AMCA will have a conventional tricycle landing gear configuration like LCA Tejas. AMCA has an internal weapons bay with a 2-ton capacity which is placed between the nose and main landing gear. In addition, AMCA may carry another 4-5 tons externally.
The AMCA will have very small radar cross-section because its maximum surface area will be made from composites material as HAL has already achieved 70 percent composite surface area in LCA Tejas and it may be striving for 90 percent or more in AMCA construction. Besides composites, AMCA also has serpentine shaped air-intakes to reduce radar exposure of engine fan blades. Stealth is so premium in AMCA that it will be the first Indian fighter to have a fully concealed In-flight refueling (IFR) probe to reduce radar cross-section.
AMCA designers have made dedicated efforts to minimize radio, infrared and acoustic signature besides reducing visibility to human eye. All surfaces including wings, tail, flaps and other edges have been aligned to increase stealth performance. To further enhance stealth feature, AMCA uses microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) in airframe construction. AMCA uses frequency selective surface (FSS) radome fabricated from advance composite materials for being transparent to operating frequencies of AMCA radar while being invisible to other radars. These innovations ensure that AMCA cannot be detected by L band, C band and X band radars.
AMCA will be a twin-engine fighter that will use two General Electric F414 engines producing 98 kN thrust each. Interestingly, the GE F414 engine is also selected for LCA Mk II as well as for South Korean stealth fighter KAI KF-X. However, in long run GE F414 will be replaced by indigenous K 9 + or K 10 engines which will be an advanced version of GTRE Kaveri engine with 110 kN thrust. The enormous thrust of K10 engine will allow AMCA to supercruise (supersonic without afterburners) at speed of Mach 1.8 that will be comparable to US F-22.
AMCA’s K-10 engines will also have thrust vectoring nozzles for super maneuverability that will ensure superior Angle of Attack (AoA) than enemy fighters. K10 will have reduced infrared emissions besides using special paint and active cooling of leading edges to reduce heat buildup from sustained supersonic flight. These features aimed at infrared signature reduction will make the targeting of AMCA much harder for enemy infrared surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.
Due to its agile design AMCA will be flown by a digital fly-by-optics flight control system that will reduce pilot workload enabling him to focus on offensive tasks. All control surfaces of AMCA will be digitally controlled using fiber-optic cables for faster response than current wired systems. The AMCA is being designed to facilitate operations in both manned as well as in unmanned configuration.
All sensors of AMCA will feed data into sophisticated computers that will be responsible for data fusion and will present a combined picture to pilot that will enhance his situational awareness beyond the capability of 4.5 generation fighters. For survivability, AMCA will have adaptive neural networks that will automatically detect faults or damages due to enemy action and suitably modify flight control laws to continue flying despite some of the control surfaces being damaged.
The preliminary design of AMCA has been completed and the fighter has entered the detailed design phase. The first flight of the AMCA prototype is expected to be in 2025-26. The AMCA will replace Dassault Mirage 2000, Mikoyan MiG-27, and SEPECAT Jaguar fighters of Indian Air Force besides complimenting Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Dassault Rafale and variants of HAL Tejas. In Indian Naval Air Arm, AMCA will be replacing Mikoyan MiG-29K and fly from all aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy.
Team Guarding India hopes that AMCA will be produced in large numbers and will be forming the backbone of both Indian Air Force and Indian Naval Air Arm for many decades as India needs a capable fighter to face Chinese J-20 stealth fighters.