Over the past few months, there have been several varying and, in fact, conflicting releases related to the future of the Indian jet engine program. Hopefully, this article will be able to clarify things once and for all. However, it is to be noted that due to the ever-changing nature of geopolitics, especially today, it is difficult to predict the state of the world in the near future. Hence, this article is written in the context of the world’s present economic and geopolitical state.
The Kaveri Program
In one of my previous articles (here), I had written in detail about the failure of the Kaveri jet engine program. However, the core section of the Kaveri engine is expected to be equipped on the upcoming Ghatak (technology demonstrator) and the AURA program. Recently the Kaveri engine, after extensive modifications, was sent to Russia (after numerous delays) for high-altitude testing. After extensive testing and certification, it will be integrated into the Ghatak program. This will be followed by multiple tests, after which it will finally be ready for service when the Ghatak UAVs (expected to be inducted for surveillance and reconnaissance) and the AURA UCAVs are inducted into the Indian defence forces.
Engines for Future Fighter Aircraft
The General Electric F404 engines will power the LCA Tejas Mk1A. HAL has already placed orders for these engines. The LCA Tejas Mk2, TEDBF, and the AMCA Mk1 (the first batch) are all expected to be powered by the GE F414 (the enhanced version of the GE F404). HAL is in talks with General Electric for the local manufacturing of the GEF414 engine, and a deal is expected to be signed in 3 weeks. Safran recently offered to set up a production line in India for their Snecma M88 engine that powers the Dassault Rafale in an attempt to make the Rafale aircraft more lucrative in the tender for 114 Multi-Role Fighter aircraft (MRFA).
India is pursuing talks with the French engine manufacturer Safran and the British engine manufacturer Rolls Royce to co-develop a 110 kN engine with the flexibility to produce up to 130 kNs of thrust for its indigenous AMCA and 6th generation fighter programs. Many aspects of the future engine, for example, the technical specifications and the intellectual property rights (IPR), are under discussion. Hopefully, a decision is expected to be reached by the end of this year. Most likely, the engine used in the AMCA program will be used to power the Future Unmanned Fighter Aircraft (FUFA), which the ADE is developing.
In conclusion, the Indian jet engine program is in desperate need of a boost as the future of the AMCA program is at stake. The Kaveri engine program was sanctioned to develop an engine for the LCA Tejas, however, since it is underpowered for this role it will be modified for the AURA program. An entirely new engine will be developed in collaboration with a foreign partner for the AMCA program. When we become self-reliant in terms of the development of jet engines, a world of possibilities will open up. These opportunities can be both technical, economic, and geopolitical. This is in accordance with the dream of a glorious India, and it is essential that we speed things up if we are to fulfill this dream.