The Worlds first fighter jet went into service over 15 years ago and since then we have seen multiple countries who joined the bandwagon of the 5th generation class with their offering, Russia was second with Su-57 to be followed quickly by China with J-20 and later J-31. not before the United States had started testing second 5th generation jet which was later called as F-35. France, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom have decided to skip the development of the 5th generation on their own and instead have started working on the 6th generation fighter jet that will go into mass production somewhere in 2040.
Both 5th and 6th Generation fighter jet will continue to maintain two common features between them, that will be stealthy airframe and radical next generation of long-range weapons that are not only capable of penetrating anti-access/area-denial airspace but also ensure air superiority over enemy airspace. The third Asian country to join the 5th bandwagon program will be South Korea with its KF-21 program, where Mk1 jets of its will not have Internal Weapons Bay (IWB) thus will be classified as a 4.5Gen fighter jet but its Mk2 variant will not only have IWB but also the same design will be adapted to make it into a stealthy airframe with use of composite and radar-absorbing paint coat by 2035.
India’s State-owned Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has been working on research and development of the MCA program for the last 10 years, later called as AMCA a 5.5th generation program where, India will develop AMCA in two phases that will have Mk1 and Mk2 variants, with the second variant being what will be classified as a 5.5th generation because it will be the first aircraft to get technology from both 5th and 6th Generation fighter jet.
Instead of chasing 5th Generation fighter jet technology that as per today’s standard was incorporated, visioned, and developed around 15-20 years back, ADA in its efforts to keep the aircraft and its technology relevant and superior when it enters production from 2035, has decided to incorporate many of the futuristic technology that the world is expected to see first coming out in the 6th generation fighter jets.
AMCA Mk2 not only will be getting new higher 110kN thrust engines but also will be among the first jets that will also see the incorporation of Artificial intelligence (AI) that will not only assist the pilot in its overhaul operational missions but also be capable of controlling fighter jets by carrying out auto take-off and landing features to reduce pilot’s load. Mk2 also will be getting an advanced AI program that not only scans an area when engaging multiple adversaries but also able to assist the pilot to choose the high-risk priority target that needs to be engaged first.
ADA also has promised that Mk2 will be getting Laser Pods that can be used to protect the aircraft from air to air and surface to air missile in close range of 5-10km but it is unlikely such a futurists tech will be present when it is ready for production in 2035 but this will come slowly as the research and development of the laser technology progress in the country. Laser Pods will not be limited just to 5th gen fighters but also might be seen on 4.5gen fighter jets when they are successfully demonstrated and enters production.
Mk2 will also be getting a next-generation engine that it plans to develop with Rolls-Royce that will be based on technology that the company has gained by working on engines for the American F-35 5th gen program and 6th gen Tempest program. Some of the technology that are been in talks are next-gen engine features like distortion tolerant fan systems, advanced composite materials, and heat management systems.
AMCA is also set to form part of a broader combat air system that will likely include ‘wingman’ uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) so that AMCA can fly with uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) not only on high-risk missions in strike missions but also in air dominance missions. AMCA also be getting a new GaN-based X-band AESA radar system for the aircraft capable of providing much more data than existing systems that will improve situational awareness and also can be used to direct UAS for better-coordinated missions.
AMCA program will also be fielding electronic warfare and intelligence surveillance system and sensors that will be comparable to what western fighter jets can field. Indian Radar and Electronic systems are often considered to be at par with the Western countries in almost all fields and this claim is often acknowledged by the western defense analysts themselves, but India still needs to focus on some of the key areas that it is still working on to get some of the next-gen techs in AMCA.
Five top features of the AMCA Mk2
Integrated vehicle monitoring system (IVHM): ADA has confirmed that AMCA Mk2 will feature an advanced variant of the Health monitoring system that will use Artificial Intelligence to predict. IVHM will not only able to do the self-diagnose of the aircraft but also warn plot even before the aircraft takes off. Some of 5th gen fighters have a basic health monitoring system that is mostly into aircraft’s avionics but AMCA IVHM will also be able to monitor the performance of engines and other sensors and will able to reduce downtime of the aircraft.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): AMCA will have its own AI that will not only use its IVHM for health monitoring but also aid in putting up the relevant Multi-sensor data fusion for enhanced situational awareness using its algorithm to predict immediate threat levels. AMCA will be getting self-learning AI that will keep learning about the aircraft and will be updated with the latest features throughout its service life.
Automated takeoff and landing (ATOL): Another first for the AMCA will be ATOL capability for the aircraft that reduces the workload of the pilot when it ready for take off from the runway. Pilots have options to chose from preset settings for ATOL to take place that will engage throttle control and flight controls as per preset setting that has been engaged by the Pilot. Different weapons and fuel loads will have a predefined or optimal preset mode for ATOL capability that will reduce additional fuel usage and keep it under safety parameters of the aircraft to avoid any take off related accidents.
Auto air-to-air refueling (Auto AAR): Another first for the AMCA will be fully automatic air-to-air refueling that will take the load of the pilot. Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with fully automatic air-to-air refueling has demonstrated such capabilities but in AMCA it will be the receiver aircraft that will be able to do mid-air refueling that will cover the whole aerial refueling envelope.
Remote Piloting: AMCA will be featuring an advanced variant of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) to save pilots life who often succumb to G-Induced Loss of Consciousness (GLOC) during a high-speed maneuver. Auto GCAS is activated when there is no response from the pilot at the control stick or throttle. the system consists of a set of complex collision avoidance and autonomous decision-making algorithms that utilize precise navigation, aircraft performance, and onboard digital terrain data to determine if a ground collision is imminent. If the system predicts an imminent collision, an autonomous avoidance maneuver—a roll to wings-level and +5g pull—is commanded at the last instance to prevent ground impact.
What if the Pilot is not able to regain his consciousness and remains incapacitated?, then Auto GCAS will still keep control of the aircraft but it can’t fly back the aircraft to defined waypoints or to the nearest airbase or airport for an emergency landing due to which ADA plans to introduce remote take over of the aircraft controls from an external pilot on the ground that will require a high level of Artificial Intelligence to work with remote pilot to land back the aircraft while it still has enough fuel to carry out this process.