Negotiations for Tejas aircraft engines soon

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Bangalore | Updated: Jun 19 2010, 06:34am hrs
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is set to start commercial negotiations with aircraft engine makers Eurojet Turbo GmbH and General Electric Aviation for 99 aircraft engines for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

The two engine manufacturers had been shortlisted after expressions of interest for an alternate engine for the LCA were issued last year. Eurojet, a European consortium, is offering its EJ200 engine, which powers the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter plane while the American firm has put in bids for its GE F414 engine used in the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Superhornet. The new engine will power the Mark II variant of the Tejas, which currently runs on F-404 engines made by GE.

Soon, we should be starting commercial negotiations, probably in a couple of weeks, said PS Subramanyam, director, ADA. The technical evaluation is over. I think both of them (companies) are good candidates. The Tejas aircraft ,with its current engine and configuration, is expected to be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) from March next year with state-run military plane maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd supplying 20 planes initially. The proposal for a second batch of 20 planes has been cleared by the defence ministry and negotiations are on, Subramanyam said.

The IAF has indicated the need for five squadrons of the Mark-II, which will feature the alternate, more powerful engine and upgraded electronics. Wherever there is obsolescence setting in, in terms of advancement of electronics, we are going for state-of-the-art electronics in the Mark-II, said Subramanyam. Even as the process of procurement of engines is on, ADA has begun two tracks of design based on the shortlisted engines so as to not lose time, he added. Meanwhile, a proposal by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to co-develop the indigenous Kaveri engine with French engine house Snecma, is under consideration.

An upgraded and more powerful Kaveri engine is being seen initially as a replacement engine for the first batch of Tejas aircraft, Subramanyam added.

Every aircraft in its lifetime needs two replacements. Some of those engines are already looking for that. By the time Kaveri gets developed and demonstrated, those engines can start coming as replacement engines for the first 20, 40 (aircraft), he said. There is full scope of what their profile is. It is very clear in our mind. The Kaveri engine profile for the next 30 years has a very strong dovetailing into the LCA programme, he added.