The basic thing for being a fifth generation fighter plane is that it must have stealth profiling. That means the surface must be shaped in such a way that it deflects radar waves anywhere else except back to radar. The surface absorbs radar waves to some extent. Another important thing is Supercruise ability, this is achieved by having a high power engine and internal weapon bays. Fourth generation Aircrafts carry weapons loaded on their wings this increases drag and hence with weapons being loaded they can't go supercruise. The aircraft must achieve speeds beyond speed of sound and must be able to deploy weapons at that speed.
Fifth generation Aircrafts have better awareness with sensors and jammers all around their airframe. The data from these sensors is processed and showed on pilot's function display so that pilot must be alert about threats in the nearby environment. The Fifth Generation Aircraft is armed with beyond visual range weapons, that means it must be able to release a weapon from that much far that the enemies don't see it. For this purpose they are equipped with AESA (Advanced Electronically Scanned Array) Radar.
This article is an attempt to rank the fifth generation fighters according to their capabilities in battlefield. I have considered only those aircrafts which are either operational or have flying prototypes. Besides the aircrafts in this list their are many ongoing projects developing fight generation aircrafts.
So here we are.........
#6 Shenyang J 31.
Many people call it J 21 snowy owl, gyrfalcon and many more. F 60 is the export variant. The J 31 is also assumed to be either copied or modified version of Lockheed F 35. Actually it has got some similarities with F 35 but isn't a copy. The F 35 airframe is quite mature but the less experience of Chinese designers is clearly visible in J 31.
There are very less official data available so I have to rely on just unofficial things. If you look at its airshow video it is clear that the airframe without leading edge extensions bleed a lot of energy and the pilot had a hectic time keeping time the nose upwards. It showed a long smoke trail that suggests Chinese hasn't worked on reducing the Infrared signature of the aircraft. The conventional round exhaust and no use of 3 D thrust vectoring makes me comment that in terms of airframe design it just old bread in a new package.
Although there is no official confirmation or release but J 31's chief designer Sun Song said that new prototype includes. The differences include a stealthier cockpit, a next-generation helmet mounted sight, holographic cockpit displays, EOTS, aerodynamic revisions and more. So while wondering what is this EOTS , I think it may be an internally carried targeting system just like that at the Chin of F 35. Although not visible on prototypes but production variant may have it.
It can be safely assumed that it will have an AESA radar and Own Engines. It will also be equipped with ECM devices integrated into the airframe. Official from AVIC claimed that additive manufacturing was extensively used on the aircraft, resulting in 50% reduction in components compared to similar aircraft. However, the resulting airframe cannot be disassembled, and the static test frame had to be transported in whole as consequence.
All an all J 31 is a low level fifth generation combat aircraft with limited capabilities. It may have been made for export. But it should be seen how many units are orders by it's home AirForce. It is believed that it would be ready for low rate production by 2019.
The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft is in it's advanced stage of development. Calibration of many important things has been done and airframe design being finalised. Stealth aspects have been tested. All thanks to the infrastructure developed for LCA.
Now the time has come that IAF needs to take some tough decisions like..........
The AMCA will have two engines of nearly 100kN thrust each to satisfy all its power requirements. The Kaveri Engine supposed to be developed for LCA Tejas provides just 70kN of thrust. The French company Safran has offered to review the program in £ 1million. The IAF is pressing on licence manufacturing of GE- F 414 Engine that powers the F 18. The Engines also need to have things like FADEC and 3D thrust Vector capabilities. For which HAL has to do a challenging job of designing them. The AMCA will have Integrated vehicle health management system (IVHMS) and Integrated Flight and Propulsion Control System (IFPCS) which will combine traditional and modern engine control systems to relive the pilot from much of the work along with increasing Engine life. These systems should either be added later or must be asked earlier for AMCA.
Without a confirming decision on Engines I am personally scared that AMCA may face the same fate as all Indigenous Aircrafts of HAL has faced be it HJT Kiran the HF24 or LCA.
The news has come that IAF would very soon make a final call for AMCA's engine. Moreover now IITs have also said to have teamed up to develop a turbofan engine for combat aircraft.
The Indigenous weapons like Astra BVR , Sudarshan Laser Guided Bomb and DRDO'S anti radiation missiles are in testing phase and hence their sizes hasn't been optimised yet. Moreover they simply does not seem small enough to be fitted inside the weapon bays of AMCA. IAF must convey this to ADA about what weapons they want on AMCA. Which till now seems that IAF hasn't communicated yet. The BVR air to air missiles of F22 can fold their fins so that they could be fitted inside weapon bays and F22 carries small diameter bombs.
Seeing the size of Sudarshan LGB it does not seem to able to be fitted inside AMCA's internal weapon bays. IAF may not have convyed this just to keep all options open.
IAF fighters aren't seen carrying any nextgeneration air to ground weapons like Glide Bombs, JDAMs ,AirLaunched cruise missiles, etc. So it is difficult to say that AMCA would carry these kind of Smart Weapons or not. As AMCA isn't going to carry any targetting pod then it may be possible that it would possibly carry Satellite Navigation guided bombs. MiG 29 and Su 30 of IAF carry Russian TV guided missiles but they are old.
Definitely as a replacement for Mirage and MiG 29s in IAF the AMCA will have a role of Offensive Air to Air and Defensive Air to Air Combat. Besides providing Air Superiority in wartime and perform a Combat Air Patrol. I personally have doubts about how can it be a replacement for Mirages. AMCA at its best can carry 2 bombs and that too internally it isn't yet clear that it will have an IRST scanner or not hence it has to rely on it's AESA radar for targeting purpose. Being stealth it cannot even carry any targeting pod. In future India and many others will have stealth bomber drones for performing precision ground attack roles. Calling AMCA for any such role would be costly.
For Air to Air missions it is an Impressive Replacement. There is no doubts about it's stealth capabilities as it is clear from the images that AMCA has almost duplicated the frontal designs of the highly stealthly F22. It is expected therefore that AMCA will be able to perform missions with in a combat radius of nearly 1500 to 2000 kms. That is essential for India's Military Doctrine.
Apart from having regular sensors like MAWS, RWR, AESA Radar AMCA must have something more. Because we can get all these in a 4th generation fighter too. The advanced sensors like Sorbicija Jammer that reflects 'false target position' to the enemy or Dassault Rafael's Spectra which reflects noise back to the ground radar to confuse it. Without such unique and one of a kind electronic capabilities nobody is going to purchase AMCA.
But to develop such sensors IAF has to convey it's practical experiences to HAL and ADA. It has to do threat optimisation for AMCA so that it's designers could suggest some breakthrough measures to eleminiate/evade threats.
With Aircrafts like F 22 Raptor already in operation since 2006. The Chinese have been developing Anti-Stealth technologies to detect such Very Low Observable Aircrafts. Then in that case AMCA must have something more. This is the area where there are chances to develop something new that hasn't been made yet.
Carefully studying the Chinese Anti-Stealth technology would help develop detection technologies to counter that.
Rest all...... Lets just prepare for the worst
And Hope for the best !