India has embarked upon an ambitious project to indigenously design and develop a fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) by 2017.

The government released Rs. 100 crore last month to the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which will spearhead the project, to prepare feasibility studies in 18 months. The ADA is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Defence.

Disclosing this to reporters here on Saturday, ADA Director and Programme Director (Combat Aircraft) P.S. Subramanyam said AMCA, when developed and produced, would probably be the first medium combat aircraft with 20 tonne weight in the world. Similar aircraft being developed by the United States and Russia are in the range of 30 to 35 tonnes.

Mr. Subramanyam said AMCA was meant to fill the gap for the Indian Air Force as the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) would meet the low-end requirement and Sukhoi-30, the higher end. Once inducted, the IAF would have small, medium and heavy combat aircraft.

He said the AMCA would have an operational range of 30 km, equipped with stealth technology to prevent detection by enemy radar and capability for super-cruise flight. A large part of the aircraft would be made of carbon composites. The entire project would cost $ 2 billion.

Once the funds were received after the submission of the feasibility report, the agency planned to develop two technology demonstrators and seven prototypes, he said. ADA was identifying technologies for 6 {+t} {+h} generation combat aircraft. Earlier, Mr. Subramanyam made a presentation on Technological Challenges in Future Fighter Aircraft at the Aviation Conclave which concluded on Saturday.

Dr. A.R. Upadhya, Director, National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), told reporters that the feasibility report for developing a Regional Transport Aircraft with 90-seater capacity would be submitted to the government by April next year. The report would look into various aspects, including configuration systems, whether it should be powered by a turboprop or turbofan engine.