Kaveri Engine :-Is India’s Kaveri jet engine project a failure?
The Indian aircraft engine programme is in danger of being set back by decades if it is not provided by adequate funding or support, warned a former DRDO official.
T Mohan Rao, the former head of the Defense Research and Development Agency’s (DRDO) Gas Turbine Research Organization (GTRE) who held a press conference in Bengaluru on Thursday to announce a workshop on the design and development of gas turbine engines, said that official disinterest, coupled with a shortfall in funding, would freeze fledgeling Indian engine developments for four decades if the country did not elicit the help of international partners.
According to a source, the engine, development of which first started in 1989 and despite accruing a cost of Rs 2,000 crore, has attracted little attention by the armed forces, leading to the GTRE to now consider its employment in ships. In spite of a November 2016 agreement by the DRDO and the French engine company, Safran to revive the engine as part of the offsets deal for the 36 Rafale multirole fighters purchased by the Indian Air Force, the source added that the armed forces has shown little interest in the type.
Chorus in the military and scientific community has been growing for a while now after French Aero-engine maker ” SAFRAN ” cleared the Kaveri engine for flight test and integration into an old retired LCA-Tejas fighter prototype after carrying out a Technical Audit of the program but the program has not seen much progress since then, as Kaveri engine at the current stage, it is not capable to achieve the desired thrust which is required to power 83 Tejas MK-1A fighter jets ordered by the IAF. SAFRAN has been pushing its own agenda and has offered to mate its M-88-3 Turbofan engine to be used as a base for the development of new improved Kaveri engine, But critics at large are not impressed and according to them the use of M-88-3 core for development of the new Kaveri engine will ensure that French always have the upper hand in the developmental program and will ensure they get royalties and other spares deal in the program which will be life long dependence on them till we continue to use their engines in MK-1A, MWF, and AMCA
Why Kaveri Engine Failed
It is due to the fact that this is the first time India is undertaking such a project and jet engines function differently to rocket engines in which India have success (ISRO had tie ups with French for developing vikas engines and Russians for cryogenic engine) , may be the Indian officials in charge of the project underestimated the complexity and the magnitude of the project when the engine was still in the design phase but you have to start it somewhere otherwise the engine will only remain on the drawing board.
And all engine manufactures globally have not completely made the engines through indigenous R &D efforts , they have spied on their counterparts , some have smuggled parts and technology related to engine design so GTRE’s association with Snecma cannot be considered as a failure either (during world war Germany stole ideas from Britain , in return Britain , Russia , French and Americans took German aerospace and missile experts to their country post world war 2 . Russians took Rollroyce engine technology to make their jet engine , the US stole/used Russian titanium metal to make SR -71 the world’s fastest aircraft . So it is like an international “collaboration” 😀 ) .
Apart from this other parallel programs based on Kaveri engines are also happening , 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 !