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The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Aero Engine Research and Development Centre (AERDC) in Bengaluru recently inaugurated a new facility, offering a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered HTFE-25 engine program. This 25 kN thrust turbofan engine, initially envisioned for powering trainers, UAVs, and small fighter aircraft, has faced significant delays and criticism, but the new facility and renewed focus aim to propel it towards completion.

Launched in 2013 with ambitious goals of self-reliance in engine production, the HTFE-25 program encountered several setbacks. The initial target of a six-year development timeframe has already been surpassed by over three years. While the engine completed its inaugural run in 2015, progress has been sluggish.

The year 2023 saw the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India criticize HAL for critical lapses in the project, including:

  • Lack of proper feasibility studies and project reports.
  • Ignoring technical reviews from domain experts.
  • Using substitute materials during manufacturing.

These lapses led to production delays and a financial loss exceeding ?159 crore as of March 2022.

Despite the setbacks, the new facility and renewed focus offer a glimmer of hope. HAL plans to complete all trials within the next two years and propose the HTFE-25 for its own High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV program. This could be a crucial step towards proving the engine’s capabilities and paving the way for wider adoption.

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