ADA AMCA - Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft


Senior member
Jan 5, 2018

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is already flying the first 32 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, and an order for 83 Tejas Mark 1A has been placed on Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Meanwhile, there have been important development breakthroughs in the following two fighter programmes: the Tejas Mark 2 and the 5th-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The IAF has accorded the Tejas Mark 2 its “comprehensive design review” (CDR), which means its design has been found viable and the manufacture of its first prototypes cleared.

The AMCA is one step behind, with its preliminary design review (PDR) done last December. It was anticipated that its CDR would also be completed this December, but it now more realistically targeted for end-2022.

Girish Deodhare, who heads the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) agency that oversees the Tejas and AMCA programmes – told Business Standard that the AMCA’s stealth shaping had been completed, its design is now mature and its internal systems are laid out. The accord of the CDR next year would clear the way for metal cutting – the symbolic start of constructing a flying prototype.

In an exclusive visit by Business Standard to HAL, designers stated: “The AMCA’s first flight is targeted for 2024-25. We plan to build five prototypes for a flight-testing programme that would take about four years. By 2028-29, we plan to begin series manufacture.”

Stealth fighters – such as the AMCA – play a crucial role in a war’s opening stages. Taking advantage of their invisibility to radar, they fly deep into enemy airspace and strike enemy radars, air bases and control centres in order to obtain air superiority. This opens the door for “non-stealthy” fighters like the Sukhoi-30MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to penetrate enemy airspace and strike enemy targets such as roads, railways, airfields, depots and ground forces without incurring heavy casualties.

For example, in a war with China, India’s opening salvos would consist of AMCA strikes deep into China, to destroy its rail and road links with Tibet and isolate the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) divisions on the Sino-India border.

A 5th-generation fighter like the AMCA is able to defang enemy air defences because of four advanced capabilities: It is “stealthy”, or near-invisible to enemy radar, and it can “supercruise”, or fly faster than the speed of sound without engaging its engines’ fuel-guzzling afterburners. Third, its advanced avionics and sensors, coupled with artificial intelligence and network-centric operations enhance the pilot-aircraft interface, allowing a single pilot to both fly and fight the aircraft. Fourth, it can detect and engage targets from long distances, outranging its adversaries.

Stealth remains a 5th-generation fighter’s key attribute. It is shaped to scatter radar waves, rather than being detected by reflected waves. Special non-reflective materials and coatings further reduce radar reflectivity. In stealth mode, a 5th-generation fighter conceals its fuel and weapons in an internal bay, since carrying them under its wings, as conventional fighters do, creating protrusions that reflect radar wave and compromise stealth.

According to HAL chairman, R Madhavan, the AMCA will have an “all-up-weight” (AUP) of 20 tonnes in stealth mode, when it would carry just one-and-a-half tonnes of weaponry concealed in internal weapon bays. However, in “non-stealth mode”, another five tonnes of fuel of armaments could be carried on external stations, under its wings.

When functioning as a deep penetration bomber, the AMCA would carry up to 6.5 tonnes of fuel in internal tanks. Its operating range is secret, but a rough calculation would indicate an ability to strike targets 1,000 kilometres inside enemy airspace and return to base.

Stealth is easily compromised, such as while releasing weapons onto a target. This requires weapons bay doors to open, release weapons and close again within 1.5 seconds. During this period, the fighter is more easily detected by enemy radar.
In “non-stealth” mode, the AMCA would carry much of its weapons load on its six external, under-wing stations. That would free up internal fuel tanks to carry an additional 1,200-1,300 litres of fuel, increasing its capability as a potent long-range, non-stealthy bomber.

However, given the AMCA’s tactical value and its cost, it is likely to be reserved mainly for stealth missions, using armament carried on four weapons stations in its internal bays.

Alongside the engineering of a stealthy profile, the AMCA programme’s biggest challenge is to develop a new, “super-cruising” engine. Until a suitable indigenous engine is developed, the AMCA will be powered by twin General Electric (GE) F-414 engines – which, in single- engine configuration, will power the Tejas Mark 2.

However, even twin F-414 engines are not enough to make the AMCA super-cruise in all configurations. According to the ADA chief: “Each F-414 engine generates a maximum thrust of 98 KiloNewtons (KN), and in Indian climatic conditions that effectively degrades to 90 KN. We have calculated that an AMCA, with the configuration the IAF has specified, requires a thrust of about 220 KN (in Indian conditions) for super-cruising. That means we need twin engines, each generating 110 KN thrust in Indian conditions,” says Deodhare.

Such an engine remains elusive, even for China with all its ability to throw money and manpower at the problem. However, a group of DRDO laboratories, led by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Bengaluru, is working to develop an AMCA engine. GTRE had managed to generate a maximum thrust of 83 KN with the Kaveri engine. Now the target is 50 per cent higher.

Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had estimated the AMCA would cost about $4 billion to develop – with a major share going into the engine. In 2015, India set up a “joint working group” (JWG) with America to co-develop jet engine technology. In October 19, US Under Secretary of Defence Ellen Lord reenevealed the JWG had been scrapped since US export control laws safeguarded key technologies that the DRDO wanted.

With almost a decade of work and Rs 400 crore having gone into the AMCA, responsibilities are being reassigned. In 2020, HAL was given a larger share of the programme, including the responsibility for the entire structural design, less the centre fuselage.

The serial production of the AMCA was made over to HAL’s Aircraft Manufacturing Division, Nashik; which has so far been engaged in manufacturing the Sukhoi-30MKI. That order has been discharged in full.

However, the Niti Aayog has cleared a proposal to make over AMCA manufacture to a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) that will include two private sector firms in partnership with ADA and HAL. Suitable private sector partners have not yet been identified.

Bhartiya Naagrik Sainik

Active member
Dec 20, 2021
View attachment 22239

For designing a new gen jet, the AMCA team may have to do experiments with measuring heat signature at different altitudes bcoz air density affects engine performance, atmospheric scattering, etc. And also in different spectrum of LWIR, MWIR, SWIR, UV.
Whichever engine will be chosen, it has to be flown with intended nozzle design for measurements.

USAF had/has Portable Seeker/Sensor/Signature Evaluation Facility (PSSSEF) to dosuch studies.
Below are some examples of how USAF measured exhausts of various jets at different altitudes, nozzle settings, angles & orientations, even flare release.

Here we have an F-15 with ATIMS III & TIGER pods to measure IR signatures.
Airborne Turret Infrared Measurement System III (ATIMS III)
Threat Infrared Generic Emulation Radiometer (TIGER)

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Below we have F-18 with the TIGER pod

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Below we have F-15 with SARIS pod.
Spectral/Spatial Airborne Radiometric Infrared System (SARIS)

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Below we have UH-60 with ARMS pod
Airborne Radiometric Measurement System (ARMS)

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There are some other pods like
Beam Approach Seeker Evaluation System (BASES)
Calibrated IR/visible/UV Ground and Airborne Radiometric Spectrometer (CIGARS)
Supersonic Airborne Tri-Gimbal Infrared System (SATIRS)
Stabilized Electro-optical Airborne Instrumentation Platform (SEAIP)

The AMCA team has to be very careful what/where/how they will implement the sensors bcoz there seem to be significant gap b/w capabilities & range of F-35's AN/AAQ-37 & AN/AAQ-40 sensors with the OLS/OSF/IRST/MAWS sensors of EU & Russian jets.

The contrasting thing is that the range of IRST on various jets like Sukhois, MiGs, EF-2000, Rafale is still quoted as 50Km+/- head-on approach & 100Km+/- in tail-chase.

For example, this website (October 15, 2015 – Thai Military and Asian Region) says
"The imaging infrared (IIR) OLS-UEM sensor combines a 320×256-pixel infrared sensor and a 640×480-pixel TV camera achieving the infrared search and track (IRST) capability need in air-to-air engagements. The OLS-UEM has been designed to detect airborne targets at ranges between 15 to 55 kilometers."
And then again the IRST range is mentioned to be 185Km. The lines are contradictory, confusing, misleading.
The OLS-K system combines an infrared sensor and a TV camera allowing to detect and track a vehicle on the ground at a distance of 20 kilometers and a boat at sea at a distance of 40 kilometers

Looking the following infographic on OLS-35 of Su-35 & OLS-UE on MiG-35. The detection range of a Su-30 used for testing, from rear is quoted 60-90 Kms & from front as 15-30Kms.


Just look at the size of these OLS sensors on Su-35 & Su-57, size of our face, and with fairing the size of helmet. It is like u take a man's head out of helment & put in the sensor, LOL.


Spherical fairing is already non-stealthy compared to faceted EOTS of F-35. And then the range of these OLS IRST is quoted so less.

Rafale uses Thales/SAGEM-OSF Optronique Secteur Frontal IRST/FLIR whose range is quoted as 80-100Kms.
Here both sensors obstruct views of eachother, 1 is faceted but other is not.



This website (https://thaimilitaryandasianregion....23/dassault-rafale-multi-role-fighter-france/) puts the OSF/IRST range at 185Km, camera range at 55Km & DDM-NG MAWS range at 28Km.

The following diagram is from a 2 decades old Australian article in early 2000s, which shows IRST passive detection range after existing OLS-27/30/31 series IRST is replaced with a newer longwave Focal Plane Array device - such as a single chip QWIP (Quantum Well Infrared Photo) device. Legacy bandgap detector imagers cannot compete against the emerging higher resolution colour tuned QWIP imagers.
QWIPs are capable of simultaneously imaging in two, three or four infrared bands


Some sources say that Su-57's OLS-50 uses QWIP & EF-2000's PIRATE & Rafale's OSF will be upgraded with QWIP if not using already. But the mechanical sweeping has to be replaced by fixed coverage + stealthy covers.
Hence bcoz our DoD has tried to mix avionics & components from different OEMs in past, the AMCA team should use the best sensors & make the sensor modules, etc as modular & upgradable for future blocks.
AMCA cannot afford to be dominated by future blocks of 4.5gen jets, it has to be superior to them in every aspect - sensor performance & fusion, agility, stealth, EW, etc.

Even civillian products have strong sensor H/w & S/w functions today.
Phone & DSLR cameras have crossed 200MP mark.
If anybody is so confident about sources on Su-57 when Russians face so much financial crunch then USA had surplus funding for its R&D, even black budget programs since then 1950s many of which has been declassified to public decades back.
Optical sensors have found applications since long in TV/IR/laser guided missiles then for spy planes, satellites, telescopes & then for ASAT/ABM terminal phase kill vehicles.
Below is example of YAL-1 Air-borne Laser whose sensors were size of regular targeting pods but could see ICBM/IRBM launch beyong 600Km, that was designed back in late 1990s. Look at the technical gap in phone & PC of late 1990s & today's & then military tech is always way ahead.


What is the size of a Tesla car's cameras unit?


What the driver sees on screen is extremely simplified display


But what happens in Engineering mode behind the scenes is much more elaborated.


If an affordable civillian car like Tesla can do so much image processing then military sensors are way too ahead already decades back. Civillian versions/apps of military tech come out much later & are actually stripped-sown versions.


Senior member
Mar 15, 2018
If an affordable civillian car like Tesla

Civillian versions/apps of military tech come out much later & are actually stripped-sown versions.
true in some cases but not always, most of the time it does not percolate due to cost. There are host of things like improved hardware (gpu), better software (libraries) , concepts ML & AI that have contributed to implementation being better. Once it attains a critical market mass civilian tech actually advances faster than military and makes it cheaper. Take for example face recognition or creating deep fakes might have been possible only by few countries which had advanced hardware & software but now is available for common masses.
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Bhartiya Naagrik Sainik

Active member
Dec 20, 2021

true in some cases but not always, most of the time it does not percolate due to cost. There are host of things like improved hardware (gpu), better software (libraries) , concepts ML & AI that have contributed to implementation being better. Once it attains a critical market mass civilian tech actually advances faster than military and makes it cheaper. Take for example face recognition or creating deep fakes might have been possible only by few countries which had advanced hardware & software but now is available for common masses.
Yes but we are talking about very specific things. Tesla cam example is just to show diff. b/w the user display & engineering display to show capability of digital image processing.
Military app requirement is much higher than civilian ones.
The costliest phone or DSLR camera cannot be compared to military apps in H/w or S/w. Miniaturization & compaction are very important in military app. A military system may have many LRUs (Line Replacable Units) the size of a slim smartphone, so total capacity of system is 10s of times more.
The face recog on phones for photography & trafiic cams has been tested by military long back. Many things are not disclosed. Biometric security in phones came very late. LiDAR on iPhone-13 came recently but LiDAR is old mil-tech now.
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Chain Smoker

Well-Known member
Mar 2, 2020
2024 was for a 2021 project start. The next projected date is the last quarter of 2022. So a rollout is only possible in the last quarter of 2025. Every time a project is pushed by a year, push all other dates by a year too.
Ho gayi bakchodi this is How serious we are despite being late.


Senior Member
Dec 4, 2017
Ho gayi bakchodi this is How serious we are despite being late.
I wonder what would you have done were you to follow the LCA project from 2001. A delay of 1 year is par for the course in the Indian ecosystem.

If we get FOC for the Mk-2 by 2030 ( not production ) instead of 2027 or 28 as is still being bandied about by certain blogs / videos / individuals , consider it to be on schedule. Ditto for both AMCA - Mk-1 & TEDBF by 2031-32 .

Don't ask about the AMCA - Mk-2 . That's where the real deal lies & with the plethora of developing technologies associated with it like an sensors , other avionics characteristic of a 5th Gen Fighter Aircraft , unmanned version , wingman drones , etc don't be surprised if at some point of time they decide to separate activities into a Mk-2 & a Mk-3 which wouldn't be a bad deal if we get the Mk-3 with FOC by 2040 with more advanced features than say a Lightning would get in it's MLU before this decade is out .


Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
Ho gayi bakchodi this is How serious we are despite being late.

It's pretty normal. Which is why, for me, only the AMCA Mk2's date counts, which will see a post 2030 first flight. AMCA Mk1 can easily go like LCA Mk1, with endless delays.

Also, I don't think the IAF will give clearance to AMCA until MRFA is cleared.