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India’s ambitious effort to build an indigenous fifth generation fighter development project, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), is set to complete the Critical Design Review (CDR) by December and project approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is expected after that, according to officials of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) which is under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

“Once the project sanction is received, the first prototype can be rolled out in three years and the first flight in one to one and half year after that,” said Dr. A.K. Ghosh, project director of AMCA speaking at DefExpo-2022 last week.

The CDR is an important aspect where the design is put through a series of tests for validation before its frozen. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is the production agency for the project has initiated manufacturing activities.

The AMCA is envisaged as a 25-ton twin engine stealth aircraft with internal weapons bay and Diverterless Supersonic Intake which has been developed in India for the first time. It is intended to have an internal carriage of 1500kgs of payload and 5500kgs of external payload with 6500kgs of internal fuel.

Early September, the CCS give sanction for the development of the TEJAS MK-2, a bigger and more capable fighter than the present one. We will be able to deliver the first prototype in 2025-26 and have the first flight in 2026-27, C.B. Ananthakrishnan, Chairman and Managing Director of HAL said at DefExpo.

The IAF wanted a replacement for the Mirage-2000 because even its manufacturer France has phased them out and the TEJAS MK-2 is meant to be its replacement, said P. Thangavel, the project director for the Naval LCA-MK-1 project. “We should have the first prototype in another three years. It has much higher payload carrying capacity than the LCA and the engine gives enough thrust and is also very reliable,” he said in a conversation at the DRDO stall at the Expo.

The MK-2 has been designed to carry 8-10 Beyond Visual Range missiles (BVR), said Dr. V. Madhusudana Rao, Project Director of TEJAS MK-2 stressing that no other fighter of this class can carry so many of them.

The TEJAS MK-2 will be a heavier and much more capable aircraft than the current TEJAS variants and the TEJAS MK-1A, 83 of which have been contracted under a ₹48,000 crore deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). IAF has given commitment to procure six squadrons of TEJAS MK-2.

The MK-2 will be powered by the General Electric GE-414 engine which produces 98kN thrust compared to 84kN thrust of the GE-404 engine powering the TEJAS MK-1 and MK-1A. On this, Dr. Rao said a significant part of the GE-414 engine would be manufactured in India with technology transfer from GE.

The development of AMCA is to be carried out in two phases, MK-1 with the GE414 engine and a MK-2 with a more powerful engine panned to be developed in collaboration. The TEJAS MK-2 is 1350mm longer featuring canards and can carry a payload of 6500kgs compared to 3500kgs by the MK-1.

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