KAVERI Engine:- The Dawn of Jet Engine indigenization in India




In 1986, the Indian Defence Ministry’s Defence Research and Development Organisation was authorized to launch a programme to develop an indigenous power plant for the Light Combat Aircraft. The project for development of Kaveri Engine was sanctioned in 1989 with probable date of completion of 1996, which was extended to 2009. The government has spent Rs2,101 Cr so far on the development of the indigenous Kaveri Engine.

The major reasons for non-completion of project within the time-schedule were technological difficulties faced due to complexities of engine system, non-availability of raw materials, critical components, lack of infrastructure, manufacturing and test facilities within the country.

Decayed performance at high altitude, insufficient thrust, excessive weight. Some of the problems the DRDO has reported on its Kaveri turbofan engine, a project in development for nearly three decades. It has now emerged that an unexpected ‘noise’ during high power trials has all but stalled the programme in what the team believes is its last mile. Detailed analyses over the last two years have failed to narrow down the nature of cause of the noise, and scientists are also unable to tell if the noise is an influence aerodynamic performance.

There are some of the major milestones achieved in this programme ::

Successful completion of 73 hours High Altitude testing and 57hours trial on Flying Test Bed have proved level of technological capability and maturity, Full Authority Digital Engine Control System has been designed, developed and qualified indigenously, Twelve materials have been indigenously developed and type certified, Total of 9 Kaveri prototypes and 4 Kabini Engine prototypes have been developed and accumulated more than 2550 hours of engine testing, Tacit knowledge acquired by the scientists are being applied in aerospace technology and other disciplines.

The Kaveri engine program now stands delinked from the Tejas fighter aircraft project and it is planned to use an upgraded version of Kaveri – K9+ and K10 to meet the needs of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) that is now being developed as a follow up to Tejas by the Bangalore based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of DRDO. K9+ Program is a program to prove concept of complete design and gain hand-on experience of aircraft engine integration and flight trials to cover a defined truncated flight envelope prior to the launch of production version of K10 Standard engine. While K 10 Program is a Joint Venture partnership with a foreign engine manufacturer. K 10 program engine will be final production standard Kaveri engine and shall have less weight and more reheat thrust along with certain other changes to meet the original design intent.

India needs to keep building on the Kaveri program for newer programs like the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project. This implies that the Kaveri turbofan should be upgraded to generate 110-kN wet and 75-kN dry thrust. But then an engine of this capability will need to incorporate single crystal blade technology, integrated rotor disk and blades and super alloys of nickel and cobalt. The 20-tonne class AMCA designed for stealth features and super cruise capability is planned to be powered by two GTX Kaveri engines. Significantly, the Kaveri engine has been custom built to operate in the demanding Indian environment that ranges from the hot desert to the freezing mountain heights.

The Bangalore based GTRE (Gas Turbine Research Establishment) a constituent of DRDO, which is the lead agency for the development of Kaveri, is now hopeful of upgrading the Kaveri engine to meet the needs of AMCA in the context of the vastly improved industrial support base in the country that the aero engine development programme had helped create. The biggest challenge ahead of GTRE would be how to enhance the power of Kaveri without increasing its size and weight and through incorporating the single crystal turbine blade technology.

By all means, Kaveri is a technologically complex power plant. It is a two spool, bypass turbofan engine having three stages of transonic low pressure compressor driven by a single stage low pressure turbine. The core Turbojet engine of the Kaveri is the Kabini. The core engine consists of a six stage transonic compressor driven by single stage cooled high pressure turbine. The engine is provided with a complete annular combustor with air blast atomiser. The aero-thermo dynamics and mechanical designs of engine components were evolved using many in house and commercially developed software for solid and fluid mechanics. Its three stage transonic fan, designed for good stall margin handles an air mass flow of 78 kg and develops a pressure combustion chamber line ratio of 3:4.The development model is fitted with an advanced convergent-divergent variable nozzle.

In order to give quickening impetus to the development of Kaveri engine, DRDO should look at setting up a high altitude test facility in the country. The defence ministry already has a working proposal for this. Prepared by the DRDO, it includes a detailed breakdown of the technological requirements; identifies the specific materials and technologies that must be developed or obtained from abroad through partnerships; identifies the production technologies needed and essential test facilities.
90kN Kaveri will be mated into retired Tejas PV-1 air-frame to used as a flying test bed for the engine, 18 months turn around time and fast tracked testing once commenced will allow, India and France to a put 90kN Kaveri into production in next 5 years and will enter into Tejas MK-1A in later batches and will replace American engines in older batches once production line stabilizes . India also plans to develop a 51kN Dry thrust version of the engine to be used on India’s Ghatak UCAV Project.

While the Kaveri project has been the subject of much derision by various quarters, the fact remains that it has strengthened India’s hand enough in the turbofan space to resist being a dumping ground for yesterday’s technology. A lot of the delays in the development of the Kaveri project can also be attributed to the fact that India’s industrial base has only now come up to speed to provide the necessary components for prototyping complex devices like modern low bypass turbofans. All the new activity detailed above however means that engine development can now be speeded up using domestic resources itself and this will naturally make foreign partners more amenable to offering better terms of trade.

Foremost of India’s mission should be to revive the indigenous Kaveri – K9+ and K10 engine with the thrust to weight ratio sufficient enough to propel AMCA. Significantly, the vision document related to the indigenous aero engine development focuses on the facilities and infrastructure available in the country with suggestions on the initiatives for up-gradation with a view to match the development and service phase of the aero engine cycle.

The good news for the programme is that the DRDO has been given a virtual carte blanche to channelise offsets from the Indian Rafale deal to resurrect the Kaveri. Snecma, a partner in the Rafale programme, builds the Rafale’s twin M88 turbofan engines. Under the terms of the partnership finalised late last year, Snecma is working to modify, certify and integrate the Kaveri on a Light Combat Aircraft airframe before 2020.

There are important implications of the Snecma-DRDO partnership on the Kaveri engine. A Kaveri engine sporting potential commonality with the Snecma M88 could be compelling factor in how India chooses its next fighter jets, both for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. Those implications, at any rate, would be clearer only once the Kaveri proves itself at every level of performance and envelope. It’s useful to break down the state of play with the new Kaveri in the projected mix.

DRDO chief S Christopher already has told Indian media that new Kaveri engine dubbed K9 will be ready to have its first flight by next Aero India 2019. Such short duration suggests that there will be no major technical changes to the core of the engine and France will not be integrating Any M-88 engine components in new the Kaveri engine.

Kaveri Engine For SU-30MKI

AL-31F engines on Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets will save India from the exorbitant amount of money which India needs to pay to Russia for Transfer of Technology license agreement for developing AL-31F engines in India and also to remove the problematic engine it self which keeps the operational availability of the entire Sukhoi-30MKI fleet lower than 65% in Indian air force.

India’s 5th Generation AMCA fighter jet project required specific tailored made 110kN thrust engine which was not easy to find since turbojet afterburning engines available in the market are not in that specific class of thrust which India wanted and could have required collaboration with International OEMs like GE or Safran to uprate their existing lineup and it was also realised that 110kN thrust class engine powered AMCA was able to Supercruise and meet Air Staff Requirements (ASR) issued by Indian Air force but development of Naval-AMCA and to meet carrier borne operations duties from an aircraft carrier, Naval-AMCA could be heavier than Air force version and 110kN thrust class engine could have lead to fall in performance for Carrier based Naval AMCA and this could be the biggest reason why India is keen on developing a new 125kN Kaveri engine .

Initial AMCA Prototypes will be powered by Ge supplied F-414INS6 engine which generates a 99kN thrust before being replaced by a 125kN Kaveri engine before it hits production. if Air force AMCA variant is able to meet ASR issued by Indian air force then IAF should be completely ok with a more power full engine and Since Navy is already having a discussion with developers of AMCA and DRDO it can be assumed that new engine requirement might have been due to Navy joining the AMCA Project.

125kN Kaveri engine will not be plug and play for Sukhoi-30MKI and will require certain modifications and changes to the airframe as well as to the engine itself, for that India might require Russian help but if Russia does refuse to help or asks for hefty amount of money then HAL and DRDO along with French will be able to replace this engines on their own just like how Chinese have been experimenting with their WS-Series of afterburning engines on their Sukhoi-27/30 and their Copies .

Marine Kaveri Engine

The Indian Navy is acquiring the indigenous Kaveri aircraft engine being developed by DRDO for powering its growing fleet of warships, a media report said.

Indian Navy too has snapped up the marine version of Kaveri engine for powering the growing fleet of its warships. Over the next fifteen years, Indian Navy might need as many as 40 Kaveri marine gas turbines. Not surprisingly then, the Indian Navy has agreed to fund 25% of the cost of the project. GTRE developed the marine Kaveri by modifying the aero engine with a shaft through which power can be delivered to the propellers.

The Navy has carried out extensive tests of the engines at Visakhapatnam and found that the marine Kaveri can deliver 12 Megawatts (16,000 Horsepower) of propulsion power, the report said.Typically warships run on regular diesel engines; gas turbines (such as the Kaveri) are added on to provide boost power, needed for manoeuvring in battle. Contemporary gas turbines, such as the General Electric LM2500, provide India s latest 5000-tonne Shivalik class frigates with 22 Mw of boost. The Kaveri’s is more modest 12 Mw is sufficient only for smaller warships.

GTRE which is already developing 3-4 test engines will begin trials within three years. We plan to begin delivery in about 6 years, Rao said.

The Indian Navy plans to replace the diesel generators fitted on older warships with the Kaveri GTG. If it performs well over a period of time, the new-generation warships will also get electrical power from the Kaveri GTG, it said.

This article has been written by Kaustav Kar
Qualification: B.Tech – Electronics and Communication
Location : Kolkata

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