The Indian Air Force (IAF) is poised to bolster its fleet of LCA-Tejas Mk1A fighter jets by considering a proposal from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to place orders for an additional 100 aircraft. This move comes after the IAF had already ordered 83 LCA-Tejas Mk1A jets two years ago. However, what’s particularly noteworthy is the shift in focus regarding the engines that power these aircraft.

Traditionally, discussions around military aircraft procurement have often included technology transfer (ToT) agreements for critical components like engines. In the case of the LCA-Tejas Mk1A, the American F404-GE-IN20 afterburning engines had been a key consideration. However, the recent developments suggest a different approach.

Rather than emphasizing ToT for the F404 engines, the IAF and HAL are exploring the possibility of establishing a Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility for these engines within India.

General Electric (GE), the supplier of the F404 engines, has already provided around 75 engines to India, with an additional 99 engines in the pipeline. The decision not to stress ToT for these engines signifies a recognition of the expertise and support that GE can offer in terms of direct spares and supplies, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, India is likely to place orders for an additional 120 F404 engines when the orders for the 100 LCA-Tejas Mk1A aircraft are finalized.

In terms of engine maintenance and servicing, the IAF is considering the establishment of a Base Repair Depot (BRD) to oversee the overhaul and maintenance of these F404 engines. This move underscores India’s intention to build indigenous capabilities in maintaining and supporting advanced aircraft engines.

However, it’s important to note that HAL’s role in the F404 engine program is limited. Instead, the company is poised to play a significant role in manufacturing the F414 engines. Under an agreement with GE, HAL will receive 80% ToT for the F414 engines. These engines will power a range of Indian fighter jets, including the Tejas Mk2, the Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF), and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) Mk1.

The projection is for nearly 400 F414 engines to be produced over the next two decades to support these three fighter jet programs. This marks a significant step towards India’s self-reliance in engine manufacturing and technology, reducing dependency on foreign suppliers.

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