Need for Indigenous Jet engine grows louder as India now has 4 fighter jet program

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) controlled by the Defence Research & Development Organization has revealed to Delhi Defence Review (DDR) that it will now develop a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy (IN) instead of persisting with the development of a Mk2 variant of the LCA-Navy (NLCA) design. TEDBF is being projected to enter service with the IN in the early 2030s as a replacement for the existing Russian-built MiG-29K fighter. The program will run concurrently with ADA’s other programs such as the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) projects and utilize developments from them. The project definition phase (PDP) for this program began in September 2019 itself. A TEDBF mockup is likely to be shown at Aero India 2021, according to ADA.

TEDBF will be fourth active fighter jet project recently which got clearance and all jets will be powered by American F-414 afterburning turbofan engine, making it India’s third jet to be powered by an American engine made by General Electric company. India’s Tejas Mk1A jets will be powered by F404-GE-IN20 afterburning engines and Mk2 and TEDBF will be powered by F414-GE-INS6 engines.

Kaveri Engine

Nearly 30 years after India first began a quest for building its own aero-engine for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft and three years after the project was abandoned, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is all set to revive the programme. Top officials from the Indian defence R&D organisation have confirmed that a call on getting the project revived will be taken at a meeting planned at the end of March, in which all the stakeholders will participate.

This development on India’s own aeroengine comes at a time when the confidence among the country’s defence scientists is at its peak and they are now sure they can achieve their targets. The top officials said the idea of reviving the Kaveri project for the LCA and attempting to achieve the over 95 kilo Newton thrust that is projected as the requirement for the LCA.

At present, the Kaveri engine that’s been developed by India’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), a DRDO lab based in Bengaluru, has been seen to achieve 85 kilo Newton that is as good as the LCA Mk1 General Electric F404 engine. But the F404 too is not enough to meet the trusts prescribed for the LCA in its Air Staff Qualitative Requirements, according to officials.

Our low-bypass turbofan experts have developed the Kaveri prototype (K9) engine which has been successfully tested and also demonstrated 83Kn of Wet thrust at Gromov Flight Research Institute in Moscow and even has been certified by French Safran for flight-testing onboard a test-bed aircraft. Current 83Kn of Wet thrust is not enough to power TEDBF with twin engine or even older Mk1 variants but headway in the program do show that influx of additional funding and integration of other agencies along with additional manpower, along with organizations changes in the GTRE can help develop an engine.

Developing a fighter jet engine  technology is very complex and hence still it’s big mark specially when very few countries having this technology currently.It poses 80% capabilities of GE 404 engines which r one of d best engine currently operating.

A Successful Kaveri engine is a necessity not only for the AMCA program but also for the upcoming Ghatak UCAV, SPORTS ( Lead in fighter), Medium Weight Naval TEDBF, Naval-AMCA programs.

Apart from this other parallel programs based on Kaveri engines , like the engine for indigenous UACV . With regard to GTRE which is part of DRDO , i can’t exactly say whether their was a mismanagement or lack of technical abilities alone which led to the Kaveri project hitting a road block . But whatever it is we cannot abandon this project because it is of vital importance to India’s defense and commercial needs to become self reliant in aerospace industry as you may very well know there are only very few engine manufactures globally and they won’t be ready to share technology as they could lose their market share . So this engine project cannot be termed as a total failure but it is better to say it has hit some nasty road blocks which the Indian officials couldn’t overcome on their own but we have not given up yet. I hope to see a fully functioning Kaveri engine soon taking Tejas and AMCA to the skies and also bringing them back safely 🙂 Cheers !

Instead of running behind the United States for Joint venture and transfer of technology for the core technology, which they will never agree to, India should instead focus on developing K10 engine based on the experience and on the transfer of technology it has received from Russian AL-31F and RD-33 engines to develop a new engine which can meet western standards, but our immediate focus should be to complete flight trials of the K-9 engines on a test-bed aircraft preferably first on a twin-engine Su-30MKI powered by K9 and AL-31F engine and later on LCA-Tejas Prototypes so that at least a Dry variant of the engine generating 50kN of thrust will be ready for production for the Ghatak UCAV program.


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