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SOURCE: BUSINESSWORLD

DRDO has been building upon the success based on its breakthrough in missile technologies. It is much evident with the handover of Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles Systems to IAF. Now the task upon DRDO is to achieve such breakthroughs in developing indigenous aero-engine and marine engine. That includes Small Turbo Fan Engine for unmanned system where DRDO has completed design validation tests on ground and presently undergoing experimental flight trials. It is the most complex work of modern science and engineering which is achieved by very few. Though not from scratch, DRDO has laid the foundation way back with Kaveri Engine.

Furthermore, DRDO has already developed a 12 MW Kaveri Marine Gas Turbine (KMGT) engine as derivative of Kaveri Aero Engine. G. Satheesh Reddy, Secretary DDR&D & Chairman DRDO, talks about such innovation with Manish Kumar Jha of BW Businessworld. He also spoke on the critical (Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) Technology for the Indian navy’s Project 75 and P75I. The Project 75 India is unfolding under first ever strategic partnership. The key is the technology here.

Manish K. Jha: Could you tell us about the proposed Combat Air Teaming System (CATS)? What are types of systems and subsystem are being planned? What is the proposed time line?

G. Satheesh Reddy: CATS is not a DRDO project.

Manish K. Jha: DRDO’s Medium Range Surface-to Air Missile (MRSAM) System was recently handed over to Indian Air Force (IAF) at Air Force which in collaboration with IAI. Could it be potentially available for export?

G. Satheesh Reddy: The MRSAM (IAF) has been handed over the Indian Air Force, which will be a game changer in the air-defence-system. The is an advanced network centric combat Air Defence System developed jointly by DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in collaboration with the Indian industry comprising of private and public sectors including MSMEs. 

Manish K. Jha: Could you share the latest update on Small Turbo Fan Engine aimed for unmanned aerial vehicle applications?

G. Satheesh Reddy: 

We have designed, developed and manufactured a small turbo fan engine for unmanned aerial vehicle applications with the support of Indian Industry. The engine has completed design validation tests on ground and presently undergoing experimental flight trials. 

On successful completion of flight trials, derivatives of these engines will be manufactured for a variety of unmanned aerial vehicle applications, making the country ‘Atmanirbhar’ in this complex and critical technology. 

Manish K. Jha: Aero engine is a critical area of aerospace engineering. India is struggling hard to achieve high thrust turbofan engine for multirole fighter jets. Could you tell us the progress in the core areas of aero engine like: advance material, forging, turbine, fan blade technology, combustor among others?

G. Satheesh Reddy: Military gas turbine engines form an integral part of aircraft system. India being an aspiring nation took a bold stride in developing an indigenous military gas turbine very early with challenging requirements through the ambitious Kaveri engine development for LCA Tejas. Kaveri Engine, a 4th generation military engine, is the first indigenous aero gas turbine engine designed and built in the country. Through this indigenous DRDO project on military gas turbines, sufficient Technology Readiness Level (TRL) in the field of aero engines for fighter aircraft has been attained in the country. 

This capability is aiding the nation in producing crucial propulsion systems for unmanned aerial vehicles & weapon platforms along with long range weapon delivery systems, like cruise missile systems. As you are aware, these engines are denied by global OEM’s for strategic applications. 

Knowledge, skill set, experience and expertise gained through this engine development programme is invaluable for the country and future engine programmes. Almost, a non-existent ecosystem has been built in the country through the Kaveri project for 4th generation class of engine technology. With the technologies developed through the Kaveri project, today India is in a position to indigenously develop a power plant for the strategic application of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). 

More than 3200 hours of engine testing has been completed which includes  Simulated Altitude Test and Flying Test Bed (FTB) trials. Twelve types of Materials (Titanium, Steel and Super alloys) have been indigenously developed and type certified for aerospace standard. 

These alloys have been used in many aerospace and other programmes in the country. Majority of the Titanium forgings have been developed indigenously and certified for gas turbine applications. Directionally Solidified (DS) investment casting technology has been developed successfully for high temperature turbine blade.

Manish K. Jha: Could you share the update on marine engine technology being developed by DRDO? What is the next generation marine engine that is being deliberated for Indian warships?

G. Satheesh Reddy: 

DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) has developed a 12 MW Kaveri Marine Gas Turbine (KMGT) engine as derivative of Kaveri Aero Engine. KMGT demonstrated it’s performance in Test bed at Naval Dockyard, Vizag. 

Next generation engine requirement from Indian Navy will be Gas Turbine with more power output, depending on the identified naval platform. 

Manish K. Jha: When do we see the AIP system ready for P75I?

G. Satheesh Reddy: 

DRDO is developing AIP for P75 submarines, which are already with the Navy. The first AIP is expected to be installed in next submarine when it comes for refit. 

Subsequently, every two years thereafter, AIP will be installed in other submarines during their planned refits.