On Friday a team from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) met with the UK-based Rolls Royce to discuss the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) Engine.
Under this joint venture the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) will be retained by India for High Thrust Low bypass engine (110kn+).
According to the tweets from the High Commission of India in London, the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Vikram Doraiswamy, and the Director General of the DRDO, Ms Chandrika Kaushik, were in attendance during a presentation held at the Rolls Royce plant. And the images in the tweets indicate that the presentation was about AMCA Engine, as indicated by one of the posters. The picture displays the words progressing, collaboration and jet engine (Advanced?) core.
In 2021, Rolls-Royce in India said it is interested in collaborating with India to co-develop and produce engines for India’s AMCA fifth-generation fighter aircraft project.
It has been reported in Financial Express Online that in 2017 both India and the UK had agreed to cooperate in the development of advanced defence projects and this also included the gas turbine engine and air defence missile systems. And, as reported in Financial Express Online, there is a collaborative project Defence Research and Development Organisation and the British engine maker Rolls Royce on jet engine technology.
According to reports Kishore Jayaraman, president of Rolls-Royce India and South Asia, has said that if a partnership is formed, the Indian government will hold the Intellectual Property (IP) rights for the engines.
India will need IP to tweak and improve its engines in the future. In addition, IP ensures that engines may be sold to other parties and that the United Kingdom has no veto power over India in the case of geopolitical concerns.
According to company officials, Rolls-Royce feels it can be an effective partner for AMCA’s engine manufacturing in India. This area represents the future – to co-develop, co-manufacture, and co-create. And it is consistent with India’s indigenous design and manufacturing drive and the Atmanirbhar way.
Rolls Royce, according to Jayaraman, is devoted to the co-creation philosophy because, ultimately, when organisations co-create, they build intellectual property, and the IP is developed locally. When a product is designed and manufactured in India, it may develop its supply chain and services model. According to him, this creates a new atmosphere for the Indian aviation sector.
Competition with Safran and GE
India is in talks with Rolls-Royce, French company Safran, which powers the Rafale fighter, and American company GE, which powers the Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas, over a prospective agreement to manufacture a jet engine in India.
While Rolls-Royce and Safran are the primary competitors, Safran has not yet fulfilled the requirements for Rafale fighter engines. The offset requirement of the Rafale deal includes the aircraft engine technology transfer. The plan addressed the transfer of expertise for developing an indigenous LCA engine; however, Safran has not yet fulfilled it.
Rolls Royce has offered a Eurojet EJ200 version with 110-120KN thrust. The SAFRAN-DRDO joint venture is planned with complete ToT and is based on the M88 engine base type.
On the other hand the United States’ interest in the fighter engine programme has lately been rekindled. Due to American reluctance to share core or hot engine technology, the India-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) collaboration on jet engine technology was postponed in October 2019. Within the DTTI framework, a joint working group on jet engine technology was subsequently disbanded. However, in the first development phase of the AMCA project, a commercially available GE-414 engine will be purchased and installed.
Russia is the only other noteworthy engine manufacturer, “but their engines are inefficient, and Rosoboronexport overcharges at every stage,” says a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.
There is no agreement yet in place between DRDO and RR, since the NGFA 110kn+ is not expected to begin development until 2030. Depending on the final cost of the engine project, a joint IP is also considered in addition to an Indian-only IP.
The need for engine IP
Explaining the necessity of an IP for the engine, Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst tells Financial Express Online “The engine intellectual property is a crucial component of the Indian engine development strategy since the engine may be modified to meet the LCA Mk1/1A re-engines needs and the LCA Mk2/Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TBDEF) requirements.”
“Approximately 250 GE-404 84KN engines are required to power the LCA Mk1/1A. India has ordered only half of the requirement from GE. The IP will enable India to scale up the Kaveri engine to meet the requirements of the LCA Mk1/1A and the future development of LCA MK2 / TBDEF, which would initially employ the GE-414 engine with a 98KN thrust rating. The GE-414’s other two opponents are the Rolls Royce EJ 200 engine and the Safran M-88 – 4 engine,” Girish Linganna adds.
These requirements were to be met by Safran’s engine obligations; however, as stated earlier before, the commitments have not been met.