SOURCE: AFI WITH IDRW.ORG
The dream of indigenous micro gas turbine (MGT) engines for Indian drones and missiles faces a critical hurdle – the turbine itself. EDITH Defence Systems, a private Indian player in the race, highlights the challenges and frustrations in achieving this ambitious goal.
While several Indian companies, including Kalyani, Poeirjets, and EDITH, are pursuing MGT engine development, a common obstacle emerges: the turbine. This heart of the engine requires specialized manufacturing techniques and materials, particularly investment casting of Inconel, a high-performance alloy.
EDITH reveals attempts to seek European assistance for turbine production, but were met with refusals, highlighting the competitive nature of the industry and potential concerns about technology transfer.
Developing a micro-scale prototype turbine itself requires significant investment. EDITH’s experience of encountering inconsistent performance and rework within batches from Indian foundries further escalates costs, making a commercially viable engine difficult to achieve.
The company emphasizes the need for business sustainability – R&D costs cannot eclipse market competitiveness. While reliability remains paramount for critical applications like drones and missiles, the rising costs due to turbine challenges pose a significant barrier.
EDITH’s experience sheds light on the complexities of indigenous MGT engine development in India. Addressing the turbine bottleneck requires:
- Collaborative efforts: Collaboration between private players, research institutions, and government agencies could pool resources and expertise.
- Technology Transfer: Negotiating technology transfer agreements with foreign partners could accelerate progress.
- Investment in Indian Foundries: Enhancing the capabilities of Indian foundries for investment casting of Inconel is crucial.
- Alternative Manufacturing Processes: Exploring alternative manufacturing processes for turbines could offer cost-effective solutions.
EDITH’s candid testimony reveals the challenges, but also underscores the determination of Indian companies to achieve self-reliance in critical technologies. Overcoming these hurdles will propel India’s MGT engine development, empowering its drone and missile programs, and fostering a robust indigenous defense ecosystem.