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Shyam Krishnan asked: Indian Navy wants 4.5th Gen TEDBF Aircraft to replace MIG 29K after 2030. India’s 5th Gen AMCA Mark 1 will be ready by 2030. Can a naval version of AMCA be developed for this requirement?

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  • Kishore Kumar Khera replies: Development of a complex system like a combat aircraft is a time and resource-intensive process. The first stage of the development process is defining the operational requirements that the combat aircraft must meet. These are formalised as Qualitative Requirements (QRs). The entire conceptualisation, design, development, testing and production of the aircraft is based on these qualitative requirements. Although during this long process, owing to technological limitations or technological developments, these QRs undergo certain modifications. Each modification of QR has time and cost imperatives. To optimise the entire process, it is best to have holistic QRs that encompass all foreseeable requirements. Inclusion of a naval version of AMCA in the QRs is a possibility. However, an additional QR may impinge on some characteristics and performance parameters. Specifically, the naval version would need an ability to operate from the aircraft carrier with non-negotiable performance parameters for take-off, landing and storage. A balance needs to be achieved. Alternatively, different versions of the same platform for different roles as per required parameters can be developed as was the case with F-35 of the United States with three different versions for their Air Force, Navy and the Marines.

    Minimising inventory diversity for combat aircraft is the desired goal as this reduces the operational, maintenance, logistics and human resource costs. Additionally, greater production to meet requirements of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN) will assist in amortisation of development cost and reduce production costs. So, economically too, it will be ideal to have AMCA for IAF and IN, provided QRs for both services are met. The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme had this philosophy and the same can be replicated for the AMCA.

    For specific details of various facets in this arena, please refer to the following MP-IDSA publication:

    Kishore Kumar Khera, Combat Aviation: Flight Path 1968-2018, KW Publishers, New Delhi, 2020.

    Posted on June 30, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.