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Sources familiar with the matter have informed idrw that the current generation engines being offered to India cannot be upgraded later to incorporate into a 6th generation program. Short-sightedness in this regard may lead India to a similar import-dependence situation as the lack of funding for the Kaveri program did.

According to an eminent scientist who wished to remain anonymous, 6th generation fighter jets will require Variable Cycle Engines (VCE), and India will be left with engine technology that was designed 30 years ago for a jet that will be released in 10 years and will soon become obsolete.

The Kaveri program was supposed to establish a high-tech ecosystem for the development of more complex engines with higher thrust levels, but the lack of strategic vision has left the country without a fully functional wind tunnel facility or high-altitude flight test facility to test its engines, even after 30 years of the program.

Scientists have expressed concern that the absence of such a facility means that an indigenously designed engine has to be transported to Russia or other countries, making the process time-consuming. These facilities were promised when the Kaveri program was initiated three decades ago.

The development of a clean sheet engine program is projected to cost more than $5 billion, and when coupled with the construction of a ground support testing facility, the expense could surpass $7 billion. India is planning to procure thousands of engines for 500 indigenous jet engines over the next 20 years, while it also needs to simultaneously keep an eye on variable cycle engines for future aircraft beyond the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The variable cycle engine is designed to allocate energy distribution among various airflow paths to meet the performance requirements of the power system for complex flight tasks. It is widely acknowledged that the only way to fulfil the advanced performance requirements of “sixth-generation” combat aircraft, without altering the laws of physics, is to adopt VCE technology.

Although the United States demonstrated 5th-generation fighter jet technology nearly 25 years ago, India is still striving to catch up. Meanwhile, 6th-generation programs are already gaining momentum, with the United States having a head start. However, within the next 10-12 years, 3-4 countries are expected to join the elite 6th generation club, in contrast to the 20 years that China and Russia took to reach 5th generation technology.

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