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The integration of the Kaveri engine into the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has been a long-anticipated project, and while it’s in the works, it seems that the road ahead is still quite lengthy. The Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has given the green light for limited flight trials involving an older LCA-Tejas LSP aircraft with the Kaveri engine. However, before we see this in action, several crucial steps and challenges lie ahead.

One of the critical requirements for integrating the Kaveri engine into the Tejas is the development of an afterburner module. The current Kaveri engine, in its dry form, lacks this essential component. The integration testing will have to wait until this afterburner module is ready, and it is expected that it won’t be before 2026 that the module gets the final certification.

While the specifics of the schedule for the Kaveri engine-powered LCA-Tejas MkI have not been officially announced by the DRDO, it’s evident that we won’t see these aircraft in operation any time soon. Realistically, it is expected that the integration and trials won’t commence before late 2027 or early 2028.

The Kaveri engine, in its current form, is capable of generating around 73-75kN class of thrust. While this is a significant achievement, it falls short of replacing the current F404-IN20 engines used in the Tejas, which can produce 84.51kN class of thrust. However, the Kaveri engine integration program is not merely about immediate deployment but serves as a technology demonstrator.

The long-term goal of the Kaveri engine integration program is to pave the way for the development of engines in the 90-99kN class of thrust, which may replace the engines in the Tejas Mk1A in the future. This project is part of a broader strategy to ensure that the Tejas remains technologically competitive and capable of meeting the challenges of modern warfare.

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