India plans to start its own fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) development project this year to build on the expertise gained in the long developmental saga of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft.
Top defence sources on Wednesday said the preliminary design stage of the futuristic fighter called the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), with collaboration among IAF, DRDO and Aeronautical Development Agency, is now "virtually" over.
"Once the project definition and feasibility is completed in the next few months, the defence ministry will go to the cabinet committee on security for approval”, said defense sources were quoted as saying by Defense News.
It will require Rs 4,000-5,000 crore for the initial design and development phase", source added.
The aim is to fly the first twin-engine AMCA prototype by 2023-2024, which will be around the time deliveries of Tejas Mark-II fighters will be underway.
IAF is slated to get its first Tejas Mark-I in March this year, over 30 years after the LCA project was first approved in August 1983, whereas the Tejas Mark-II jets, which has more advanced engines, will start to come only by 2021-2022, according to TOI.
"After Tejas-II, we have to move ahead to a fifth-generation-plus AMCA. Basic design work of AMCA as well as presentations by five to six global aero-engine manufacturers is over. Simulation modelling is also in the works", said the source.
India is also trying to sort out its differences with Russia over their proposed joint development of the Indian "perspective multi-role fighter"
The multi-role fighter will be based on Russia’s under-development FGFA called Sukhoi T-50 or PAK-FA.
India had told Russia it cannot wait till 2024-2025 to begin inducting 127 of these single-seat fighters, which will entail an overall expenditure of around $25 billion.
But India also wants its own home-grown AMCA project in the long-run for strategic and economic reasons.