HAL CMD confirms Rolling out of 5TH GEN AMCA JET In Four Years
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces, Veteran
Work on TEJAS Mk-1, FOC variants are in full swing and the squadron should have complete 16 jets by March 2021. The Tejas trainers will then start rolling out and HAL will start concentrating on Mk-1A version.
It took nearly 30 years for the first of the IOC version of Tejas to come out and join 45 Squadron IAF and 15 more have followed. The FOC clearance was given last year and within 12 months the first FOC fighter was delivered to join 18 Squadron IAF and others are following.
For current order, HAL is going at 8-10 aircraft per year with a target rate of 16 per year, for which a second line has already been set up now. The production can easily ramp up to 16-20 per year as and when orders are received for the 83 LCA MK1A.
It is time for HAL, ADA, IAF, MoD need to get on the same page and stream line designing, testing and production as an integrated function of aeronautical progress.
With respect to Tejas Mk1, while we were struggling with designing phase no one gave thought to even the testing phase and the production phase was still off the radar screen.
With testing of Mk1A now about to start, we need to sort out the production phase at once without wasting time. So that all four IAF squadrons with MK1 A are functional by 2026. As per CMD, production rate was an issue two years back but things have moved on to increase production to 20 jets per year.
For the first time ever, our country will be simultaneously looking at Tejas Mk2, Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter, the 5th Generation AMCA and the Medium Support Helicopter.
The entire environment has to be such that the time gap between designing, roll out of the first prototype, the first IOC aircraft and the FOC production is minimal. Apart from meeting the IAF numbers in time, focus will have to shift to clearance and export of these machines to interested friendly countries too.
To ensure that our fifth generation fighter program, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) has its first squadron in IAF service by 2029 – 30 there has to be a public-private combination in the production phase instead of only the HAL shouldering all the responsibilities.
The contours of a joint venture company to execute the AMCA program has to start now with all stake holders well represented with authority and demonstrable responsibility.
Till now private industry has been in the suppliers role only, starting initially as suppliers of components and progressing to sub systems. Recently they have started inching to supplying complete systems.
Whereas the new venture will require the private industry to participate in the project as equal to government entities ( HAL, ADA ) in both financial and works areas. Till date this has not happened at least in the defence sector.
The designing part of AMCA is reaching completion and soon all stake holder must aim to have the prototype flying by 2024, around the time when the first FOC of the Tejas MK 2 start entering the IAF squadron.
Since the Tejas Navy is not adequately powered, a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter is being designed by the ADA around this Tejas. The TEDB fighter should be flying with the Navy by the time INS VIKRANT has undergone all the sea trials and is operatinally ready. Though it will not be a bad idea to build around half a squadron of Tejas ( Navy ) quickly.
Flying from VIKRAMADITYA and shire based facilities they will accumulate tremendous amount of data for future use. They will also have an important operational role in providing air defence to the Carrier Battle Group, thus freeing MiG29s fighters for strike roles.
Once the prototypes of Tejas Mk2, TEBDF and AMCA start rolling out, ADA and HAL will be entering the final frontiers as far as Jet fighters are concerned. That is the designing of our own AHCA to replace the SU30 MKI from 2045 onwards.
Around two years back, we had pulled out of a collaborative project on FGFA that is the Russian SU57. This was done as Russians were not involving the HAL in the design phase. We are no longer willing to remain mere assemblers of aircrafts.
Though to maintain an edge on both China and Pakistan,till arrival of our own AHCA, IAF may still have to go in for outright purchase of a few squadrons of this speed monster SU 57 and turning it into SU57 MKIs.