The air force is likely to insist on a clause for development of an indigenous aero engine when it clears a multi-billion dollar programme to go ahead with the next generation Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The fighters – expected to take to the skies by 2026 as per current projects – are being planned to substitute costly imports of combat aircraft in the future, with the air force keen that a home grown engine be developed for true self dependence.
Sources said that while the first two squadrons of the AMCA will be powered by a variant of American origin GE 414 engine, the project will be clearing in the coming months on the condition that a parallel process be initiated by DRDO to develop a aero engine plant with foreign collaboration. “A clear path towards developing our own aero engine is essential and should be done along the AMCA programme which is being supported. If needed, foreign collaboration from western nations that have advanced technologies can be sought,” senior officials told ET.
The assessment within the Indian establishment is that engine technologies needed for future aircraft are available with nations like France, UK and the US while traditional ally Russia has lagged behind in the field. The Indian side is also keen not to repeat a deficiency in the Chinese weapons development programme where the lack of a reliable aero engine programme is seen as an impediment.
As reported by ET, the DRDO has carried out preliminary designs for the AMCA and is confident that it will be in a position to roll out the first test fighter within five years of the project receiving the next stage of financial sanction that is pegged around $ 1billion. The air force has put its weight behind the project as well, along with the Light Combat Aircraft. In comments preceding the air force day, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had said that “on the fifth generation (requirement), the AMCA has been given a go ahead and we have given it our whole support and are putting in our energies there” and that no imports were planned in the foreseeable future.
Plans to develop the indigenous Kaveri fighter jet engine as part of the Rafale offsets deal have not taken off, even though presentations have been made by the French side on creating an aircraft engine ecosystem in India. Similarly, a plan to share jet engine technology under the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) has been suspended last year after little progress was made by the two sides after detailed discussions.