Why a €1bn French deal is a reminder of India’s failure to build an indigenous jet engine
New Delhi: Later this month, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to review one of India’s most strategically important projects – the development of a 120 kN (kilo Newton) engine to power the the country’s futuristic 6.5 generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA).
The fighter is expected to form the cornerstone of the Indian Air Force’s manned tactical fleet over the next decade.
But there’s a problem right at the starting line — there is no indigenous jet engine to power India’s most ambitious planned aircraft.
The French engine giant Safran is asking for more than a billion euros to transfer the technology needed to manufacture the engines, under the Rafale offset contracts.
When he signed the 7.8 € billion Rafale agreement with India in 2016, France committed to invest 50%, or 3.9 billion euros, in India in exchange for OK.
For For India’s jet engine scientists, as well as the air force, the billion-euro deal is a painful reminder of the country’s failure to produce a combat jet engine of its own.
The country has achieved significant successes in the production of power plants for the space program, as well as missiles. Progress in the development of an indigenous combat jet engine, however, has been elusive.
India, government sources said, now plans to work jointly with France to produce a new jet engine for future aircraft of both countries. Last year, British company Rolls-Royce told ThePrint it was also want to work with India on co-development and engine manufacturing for the AMCA.
The the government, however, seems keen to make the deal with France a reality, it said sources said, deepening collaboration with a country that has been among India’s leading suppliers of advanced military technology.
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The Fighting Jet Engine Challenge
Little countries have successfully mastered the complex technologies needed to produce jet engines for combat aircraft.
Until recently, only China fifth generation J-20 fighter – also known as “Mighty Dragon” – was originally equipped with the Russian-made AL31F engine, then with the WS-10 Taihang.
Derivative CFM-56II turbofans imported from USA in the 1980s, however, the WS-10 suffered from chronic problems with power and maintenance.
The The WS-10 began to be replaced by the more powerful and modern WS-15, but it is still, according to the estimation of some experts, a generation behind modern western jet engine technology.
Same the engines that power the Boeing 747 civilian airliner have at least 40,000 rooms. Temperatures in the combustion chamber can rise up to 1400 ºC.
These advanced technologies are so difficult to master that very few countries to succeed, according Timothy Heath, an expert to Rand Corporation, an American non-profit global police think tank.
In certain senses, the ability to manufacture fighter jet engines is the true test of the military-industrial base of a country. The five permanent members of the United Nations United Nations Security Council — United States of America, Russia, China, UK and France — manufacture advanced engines.
Although some countries like Japan and Germany have the technology to do this as well, little outside this elite club made successful fighter jet engines.
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Failed efforts to master technology
india the search for its own combat jet engine was shaped by the problems encountered by the HF-24 Maroutthe country first native fighter.
The Marut was to be powered by the Bristol Orpheus 12 engine. When the North The Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) project to develop the engine collapsed, however, India was forced to accept the less powerful Bristol Orpheus 703.
The The Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) in Bangalore has finally produced a version of Orpheus 703 with afterburner, significantly improving engine performance Powerful. The engine, however, turned out inappropriate for the Marut cell – rendering the otherwise excellent plane obsolete before its time.
In 1983, the government sanctioned work on multi-role Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), at an estimated cost of Rs 560 crore. ACV was intended for replace the Soviet-made MiG-21.
Feasibility studies conducted in India and abroad have revealed that if there were no perfectly adapted engine available everywhere in the world, the Rolls-Royce RB-1989 and General Electric F404-F2J the engines, on the whole, met the requirement.
The GTRE, since 1982, had been working on the indigenous GTX-37 engine and pushing for its adoption on the ACL.
Four years later, a study was conducted jointly by Aeronautics Development Agency, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and GTRE to evaluate the GTX-37.
In December 1986, the GTRE proposed the development of the native Kaveri engine for the ACL. Based on this proposal, the government sanctioned a project of Rs 382.86 crore in March 1989.
Whereas GTRE has developed nine prototype Kaveri engines, as well as four base engines that undertook 3,217 hours of engine testing, including in Russia, they failed to meet the parameters required to propel a fighter.
In place of a “wet thrust” of 81 kN – the thrust that the engine can deliver when a fighter needs maximum power – the Kaveri only generated 70.4kN.
“GTRE was unable to deliver a motor capable of powering the ACL despite cost an overrun of 642% and a delay of around 13 years,” the controller and auditor said. general (CAG) graded in a scathing report released in 2011.
“The project is now faced with the alternative of entering into a joint venture with a foreign house for the further development of the engine,” the report continues. say.
Big many other critical projects have followed the same path.
advanced light Helicopter, Scholar Eric Arnett notedhad to be a Indian designed and manufactured helicopter. The Shakti engine used by the the helicopter, however, was co-designed with French society Turbomeca.
New roles for old engines
The The Kaveri engine is being redesigned for other applications, such as drones.
“The The Kaveri project has helped us master several critical technology areas and, thanks to this project, the ecosystem exists in the country for the design, development, manufacturing, assembly, testing and qualification of 80- nativeclass of kN motors,” a senior DRDO official told ThePrint.
“In In addition, the technological capabilities obtained through the Kaveri project can be very useful in the development of higher thrust engines such as AMCA class,” the manager added, adding, “It’s always a climb when it comes to to do something completely new.
The the problems, according to experts, ranged from shortcomings in metallurgy, manufacturing infrastructures and testing facilities, to the denial of critical technologies after India’s nuclear tests. “And no country, even our closest friends, has been keen to part with jet engine technology,” another official said.
india the quest for the jet engine also suffered from a lack of suitable scientific personnel, CAG noted in its report. “At the time of the project sanction, GTRE had to nearly double its sanctioned strength of skilled manpower to meet the target,” he said.
“Same today, the institute is plagued by a shortage of scientific and technical personnel branch personnel that affect the progress of the project”, the report added.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)
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