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SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.

India’s indigenously developed Kaveri engine is unlikely to power any fighter jet in the future but India is pinning its hopes on getting its hands on the “hot engine” technology what is known as the crown jewel in jet engine technology in Joint venture form likely winner of the MMRCA tender for the 114 fighter jets which is the biggest fight jet tender in the world.

India has made it a precondition now that foreign vendors competing in the tender process will also require to transfer the “hot engine” technology of the respected fighter aircraft to develop a new power-plant for the AMCA program and also help in the development of the AMCA fighter jet.

France and the United States are keen on sealing the deal for either Dassault Rafale and Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and F/A-18 Block-III Super Hornet of Boeing and both have offered India to jointly develop a new engine for India’s AMCA program. Dassault Aviation which already has clinched orders for 36 jets from India is trying its best to secure orders for 114 units of Dassault Rafale so that the program can be used to develop and fund the 6th generation fighter jet program which France has started with the German and Spain.

Boeing, LM and Dassault proposals to build AMCA 

Boeing has offered to jointly develop AMCA 5th generation fighter program with an Indian partner and also has responded to the Expression of Interest (EOI) issued by ADA for the development of the Two  Technology demonstrator (TD) aircraft in Phase-I. F/A-18 Block-III Super Hornet is the only fighter chucking out some revenue for the company and its F-15 fighter aircraft which is only operated by the 4 countries in the world other then small orders from its current operators there is no scope that their will be a new operator for both aircrafts produced by the Boeing if India doesn’t buy F-18s from them and they stare at blick production order and closure of the Boeing’s fighter aircraft division in near future without any further orders.

Boeing which has lost lucrative contracts to the rival Lockheed Martin in F-35 and F-22 contract with the United States Air Force (USAF) in the last few decades has not been able to clinch major orders from the USAF or the United States Navy is keen to co-develop and manufacture AMCA in India for IAF and also use its global reach to market it to new operators.

Dassault too has shown interest in building AMCA for India in its Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) once it completes orders for Rafale. DRAL is willing to be a System integrator of AMCA while Teir -1, 2 and 3 supply chain can be decided by DRDO. DRAL is willing to consider integrating Indian requests for certain French avionics and weapons package into the AMCA program and also assured that aircraft will be built as per ADA design along with quality assurance.  

Lockheed Martin which has a full order book from its F-35 program is silent of the three and reportedly has not responded to the EOI issued by the ADA for manufacturing partner for the AMCA program yet nor has shown any Interests in begin manufacturing partner for the AMCA program. LM which has managed to reduce the global price of its 5th generation fighter F-35A to now a 4++th generation fighter aircraft certainly will not be interested in anything to do with another 5th generation program of foreign design. 

Hurdles in the JV Engine 

SAFRAN which supplies M88-3 after burning turbofan jet engine to Dassault Rafale and GE Aviation which supplies its F110-GE-129 engines for F-16V and F414-GE-400 engines to the F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets own Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) to the engines they have designed and merely are part of the supply line to the fighter jets their power. Due to this Dassault, Boeing or Lockheed Martin have little or no control over IPRs of engines which power their jets due to which India had separate round of talks with this Aero-engine makers over the years but they still are not able to give up their core hot engine technology to India due to which no deal for joint development of a new engine for the AMCA program has been stuck till now.

M88-3 JV offer 

M88-3 after burning turbofan jet engine will require a new core section to meet the thrust requirements of the AMCA program. 47% additional thrust from the existing core of the M88-3 is simply not possible due to which SAFRAN is been demanding nearly $1.2 Billion in Indian investment in the program plus order guarantees before it agrees to the Joint venture but some of the hot engine technology is still out of Technology transfer agreement due to which India is not keen on investing billions for license assembly.

GE-F414 EPE offer

GE Aviation has offered India its GE-F414 EPE which can generate thrust requirements of the AMCA program without much investment from the Indian side and since core technology will remain the same and 20% additional thrust from the existing core of the GE-F414 can be extracted and the program is already funded by the United States Navy for its F-18E/F engine upgrade program, India will not require any major investment in the program nor it will be required to pay for investment but GE Aviation is only agreeing to set up a joint venture between GE Aviation and Indian selected firm so that GE-F414 EPE engine can be license-built in India along with component manufacturing but hot section technology will come from the United States and only will be assembled.

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