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In a significant stride towards bolstering defence cooperation, India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, convened for the second meeting under the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET). The discussions focused on co-production, co-development, and research and development (R&D), underscoring the deepening strategic partnership between the two nations.

A key highlight of the meeting was the reiterated offer from the United States to jointly develop a new engine for India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) 5th generation program. This proposal aims to rejuvenate discussions that had previously stalled due to high Transfer of Technology (ToT) levels demanded by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Several years ago, India and the United States formed a joint committee to explore the feasibility of co-developing a new engine for the AMCA program. However, negotiations faltered over India’s insistence on substantial ToT, which US original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) found challenging to accommodate.

In private discussions, US officials have emphasized that American OEMs, particularly General Electric (GE) and Pratt & Whitney (P&W), are uniquely positioned with the expertise in developing true next-generation fighter jet engines. They argue that India’s collaboration with these OEMs could be pivotal for the AMCA program. In a significant shift, US officials have indicated a willingness to meet many of the earlier demands, previously deemed too difficult to pass through the US Congress.

Efforts are underway by US officials to secure approval for an 80% ToT for the F-414 engines, intended to be manufactured locally by India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). There are promising signals that the US might even surpass this 80% threshold specifically for the AMCA program, marking a potential breakthrough in defence technology collaboration.

DRDO Chief recently emphasized India’s ambition for a cutting-edge engine, rejecting mere enhancements of older 4th-generation engines. The vision is to develop a brand-new engine from scratch, incorporating 6th-generation technology. This engine should not only power the 5th-generation AMCA but also future platforms, ensuring its relevance for the next 40-50 years.

French company Safran is currently leading the race that has offered a new engine that can power India’s AMCA fighter jet program.

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