Youngje Kim, Vice President, Indo-Pacific Region, GE Aviation speaks with Manish Kumar Jha on the design and development of an aero-engine in India.
GE Aviation is selected for the LCA Tejas. What is your plan for aero-engine development in India?
To begin with, GE has been working in the aerospace sector for more than 100 years. In India, it has been more than 30-40 years that we are working with defence services. Aligned with the ‘Make In India
Going forward, our plan is to support Make in India by forging meaningful partnerships. You must have seen the recent media coverage of how we submitted proposals to the U.S. government to support the LCA Mk 2. Though we are yet to procure the license for the global market, we plan to manufacture a very significant portion of that engine here in India. Moreover, maintenance, repair and overhaul will also be done in the country.
What is the collaboration with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA)?
It all got started with LCA. We work with the Indian government and ADA to support the integration of the GE 404 engine into the LCA Mk I. Two years ago, we signed a big contract to deliver ninety-nine engines to support the serial production of LCA Mk IA. However, that’s just the beginning and we have a long way to go.
How many LCA Mk I engines have you supplied so far? What has been the technical collaboration for LCA Tejas?
Initially, we supported the integration of our engine when they were developing the aircraft. It’s not an easy task because one has to design the aircraft around it. We’re the only company that’s got true expertise and experience in doing that. We’ve integrated our engines with more than twenty plus different platforms around the world. To date, no other engine companies have accomplished the feat.
How do you make it possible? Do you have a modular engine?
So, it’s based on our experience in engineering. We are not developing the engines but helping them design the aircraft around the engine. We’ve done it in many other countries. As there are going to be many more fighter-developing programs like LCA Tejas Mk 2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), we have the expertise to support the initiative here.
So, how do you think it is unfolding, given that there are two very different platforms—the AMCA and LCA Mk 2?
On the LCA TEJAS Mk 2, GE has already got on the contract. A long time ago, we were selected to develop the 414 INS 6 specifically for LCA Mk 2. That development is complete. It’s just that there have been delays with the aircraft design. But I think, there’s a final approval now and they’re going to move forward with the Mark 2 program. They can use the engine as it is already developed. We plan to manufacture that engine here in India as it not only suffices for the LCA Mark 2 but also satisfies requirements for future applicants like the AMCA.
What is the technical commitment from GE in terms of 414? Are you going to set up your, research and development and the assembly line in India?
Our commitment is to support ‘Make in India’. We are going to be making the engines here in India, for India. We are also going to do a lot of engineering work in the country. We have an engineering centre in Bangalore, and we have almost 1000 aerospace engineers who are very capable there. They are designing the latest and greatest aircraft engines here in India. The fact that they own the design here, we’ve been able to tap into those resources to be able to support the development.
Could you also talk about joint cooperation for another Indian program?
GE F414 INS6 is an upgraded version of the F 414 baseline. So, we’ve worked with ADA to ensure that the upgrade of the engine is providing power to it. This is an expertise GE possesses on the fighter side. We also power helicopters like MH 60 Seahawks and Apache with T700, P-8Is with CFM56, and navy ships with LM 2500. This means that there are a lot of commonalities in supporting the Indian army, the navy, and the air force. We are working very closely with the services to make sure that they’re able to sustain their engine here, within the country.
Could you tell us more about the gas turbine? What are you doing with India and what is the futuristic program that you are targeting?
We are participating in all the potential shipbuilding programs that will require our gas turbines. We’ve just signed the MoU with HAL this afternoon to be able to support or provide a smaller gas turbine LM500 as a generator set, probably on a smaller shipbuilding program. So, we’re here to continue to support the Indian navy with its shipbuilding programmes. The HAL is already doing assembly inspection tests of our gas turbines LM2500. We are now going to have the same process for smaller gas turbines LM500.