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India’s ambitious Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program, aiming to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet, is nearing a crucial stage in its engine selection process. While the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) continues discussions with potential partners, Safran of France appears to be taking the lead in the race.

The AMCA program requires a high-thrust engine in the 110-120kN class, significantly more powerful than engines currently used in India’s fighter jets. GTRE is actively seeking collaboration with a foreign partner to co-develop this critical technology, ensuring both expertise and timely delivery.

Sources familiar with the program indicated to that Safran is currently the frontrunner in the engine partnership negotiations. The French aerospace giant boasts extensive experience in developing and manufacturing high-thrust engines, including the M88 powering the Rafale fighter jet which India has already inducted. This existing partnership and Safran’s proven track record make them a strong contender.

While Safran seems to be in the driver’s seat, British Rolls-Royce remains in the race. The company’s EJ200 engine powers the Eurofighter Typhoon, another fifth-generation fighter jet, and its presence in the competition cannot be entirely discounted.

Regardless of the chosen foreign partner, HAL, India’s state-owned aerospace giant, is expected to be announced as the local engine manufacturing partner for the AMCA program. HAL already possesses the experience and infrastructure required for jet engine production, having successfully manufactured engines like the AL-31F and RD-33 under license.

With the engine selection process nearing completion, a final decision is expected to be announced by mid-2024. This will mark a significant milestone for the AMCA program, paving the way for engine development and subsequent integration into the fighter jet.

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