BEL partners up with DRDO for India’s next-generation combat aircraft

AMCA Model
AMCA Model

Indian electronics firm Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) announced on 21 February that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state-run Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO)’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to support the country’s fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme.

According to BEL, the MoU aims to take advantage of the complementary strengths and capabilities of BEL and ADA to develop the aircraft’s internal weapons bay computer as well as other mission systems.

The DRDO is understood to have completed the design of the AMCA and will advance development to the next stage of the critical design review.

State-owned aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) earlier announced in March that it has commenced manufacturing activities for the AMCA.

The proposed AMCA has been in design and early development for more than a decade and centres on a stealthy twin-engined multirole platform that can perform deep-penetration strikes into an adversary’s territory to destroy air defences and valuable targets. It will also feature supercruise ability as well as advanced avionics and artificial intelligence that will boost pilot performance.

According to HAL officials, the AMCA will have a combat weight of 20 tonnes in its baseline stealthy configuration, with 1.5 tonnes of ordnance carried in internal weapon bays. Provision of an additional five tonnes of fuel and ordnance can also be carried using external underwing hardpoints, although this would inevitably expand the aircraft’s radar cross section.

Early versions of the AMCA will be powered by a pair of General Electric F414-INS6 turbofan engines each with thrust ratings of 98 kN. However, it is understood that supercruise cannot be achieved until 110 kN-class engines can be developed. The DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) is reportedly developing more a more powerful variant of the indigenous Kaveri engine, although progress appears to be modest to date.

by Jr Ng