On Tuesday, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria implored the DRDO to make India's stealth fighter project, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), "happen". On the same day, South Korea's main aircraft manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries, unveiled the first mock-up of its indigenous stealth aircraft, called the KF-X, at an exhibition in Seoul.
Fifth-generation aircraft feature design characteristics to reduce the possibility of detection by enemy radar and infra-red sensors and carry advanced electronics and communications. In addition, fifth-generation aircraft are meant to be highly agile and have the capability to carry their weapons in internal weapon bays that are enclosed in the aircraft's fuselage. This reduces the possibility of detection by radar and also decreases drag on the aircraft, which would be increased if weapons are carried under the wings.
The KF-X and AMCA have similar characteristics, including the fact that both aircraft will be powered by two US-built F414 jet engines. The KF-X and AMCA also have a loaded weight of around 25 tonnes each and will be capable of carrying weapons and equipment both internally and externally.
The mock-up of the KF-X unveiled in Seoul showed the fighter armed with European-origin air-to-air missiles, including the Meteor long-range missile. The Meteor is, incidentally, being supplied to the Indian Air Force for its fleet of Rafale fighters.
The KF-X is being developed by South Korean companies, with assistance from European and US firms. South Korean officials claim the KF-X will be less stealthy than the US-built F-35, which the country is buying.
The project has an estimated development cost of around $8 billion dollars. South Korea plans to buy around 120 KF-X aircraft. Indonesia had signed an agreement in 2015 to bear 20 per cent of the development cost of the KF-X and had reiterated its commitment to the project, though disputes over funding remain. The KF-X is slated to make its first flight by 2022 and enter production by 2026.
The feasibility study for the AMCA began in 2009. In 2018, the government sanctioned Rs 400 crore for the AMCA's detailed design phase. DRDO officials claimed they plan to fly the first prototype of the AMCA before 2025.
Speaking to DRDO officials in Delhi on Tuesday, Bhadauria had declared the “DRDO must make it (AMCA) happen. As not only your pride is at stake, but also of the IAF.” Bhadauria had reiterated support for the AMCA in his annual press conference on October 4, noting the Indian Air Force had no plans for a foreign fifth-generation fighter in the “foreseeable future”, dismissing speculation the Indian Air Force would buy a Russian stealth fighter.