SOURCE: Satyajeet Kumar/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Reports published by La Tribune and Reuters have created buzz over the revival of India’s long dead Kaveri turbofan engine with French assistance coming from Aero-engine major Snecma which has sent Indian defence media into a tizzy due to lack of clarity on the possible deal when French President Emmanuel Macron visits India next week.
Kaveri engine was delinked from LCA-Tejas program after it was not able to generate enough thrust to power an fighter aircraft in the class of LCA. The engine also suffered from last mile technological issues which GTRE was unable to fix.
Lack of Engine development infrastructures in the country and inadequate funds for the program meant the program of a late had become a weekend project, sometimes even running out of Aviation fuel to carry out further ground trials due to procurement issues.
Kaveri engine project was initiated at low budget even though over 2000 crores seems to have been spent over last three decades, which sounds huge for a developing country like India, it was not even 10-20% of the amount other countries had to spend on development of a similar class of engine elsewhere.
Unlike China, India never learned and never initiated any high funded multiple engine projects to meet its local needs even though it was working more and more in local development of weapons and their platforms.
Dassault Rafale offset clauses seems to have come as a boon to Indian military planners, when in 2016, Snecma which was engine provider of 36 Dassault Rafale ordered by India agreed to invest 1 Billion Euro into Kaveri engine program to develop a military worthy engine which can power host of aircrafts like Tejas MK-1A and Tejas MK-2 .
Kaveri engine program was literally running on fumes with no intended usage marked for the final product even if had completed its development for Indian military planners, it anyways was low on agenda and nobody was interested to pour more money into a project which had such low chances of success and for over three decades didn’t come anywhere close to meeting its objectives.
Snecma Team which had access to Kaveri engine program earlier had studied its flaws and knew exactly ways to fix it with their own technology but previous negotiations for joint collaboration failed due to high price asked by France, this time India was offered free fix for Kaveri engine program and our Military planners seemed more than delighted to grab that offer since it did not involve any additional funding from Indian side.
M-88 can generate nearly 75kN of thrust at present but its Core has growth potential till 105 kN (23.6049 lb) and as per Snecma’s Internal research, development of an 88.9 kN (20000 lbs) engine variant was in pipeline to meet growing increase thrust requirement of Dassault Rafale to be future ready when these aircrafts are up for mid-life upgrades with their local and export clients .
If it is true that M-88 core has been used with some technology derived from Kaveri engine then Snecma might have killed many birds with one arrow . not only it got its own funds to develop uprated M-88 engine for Dassault Rafale for future use but it also got export customer in India, who will be require over 300+ engines if both Tejas MK-1A and Tejas MK-2 takes off simultaneously .
French might have offered India deep Transfer of Technology rights for some royalties for each engine made in India, India might also get exclusive rights to manufacture engine and its spares and even export if required.
If French Vanilla engine does go on to power India’s LCA Variants then India not only will have partially owned engine which can be offered to any potential customer for LCA-Tejas but it also frees India from being too over depended on Americans for their engines in long run.