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British aerospace and defence company, Rolls-Royce, is currently under scrutiny for alleged corruption in the procurement process of the Hawk 115 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force and Navy. The allegations suggest that intermediaries were involved, and the company made illicit payments to swing the deal. This information was revealed in a First Information Report (FIR), and a British court order from 2017 also mentioned the company’s alleged complicity.

If found guilty of the violations, Rolls-Royce could face severe consequences. It may be debarred from undertaking any Government of India projects for the next five years, and a penalty would eliminate any possibility of the company engaging in a joint development venture for the new engine of India’s AMCA 5th Generation fighter jet program.

The legal proceedings surrounding the Rolls-Royce case are ongoing. However, the available evidence appears to indicate the involvement of middlemen, including government officials, who were allegedly paid to facilitate the deal. As a result, the Indian government might be contemplating withdrawing from the talks it had been conducting with Rolls-Royce regarding a proposed joint venture for the development of a 110kN high-thrust engine for the AMCA program.

In the event of Rolls-Royce’s debarring, the competition for the development of the 110kN high-thrust engine for the AMCA program would narrow down to American company GE and French company Safran, both of which are currently engaged in discussions. Rolls-Royce had previously offered to develop a new engine entirely funded by India, ensuring that India would hold the intellectual property rights (IPR) of the entire engine. This arrangement would eliminate the need for any permission from Rolls-Royce or the British government for the sale of the engine or any fighter jets equipped with it.

The outcome of the legal proceedings and the government’s decision regarding its engagement with Rolls-Royce will have significant implications for the future of the AMCA program and the development of the 110kN high-thrust engine. It remains to be seen how these developments will shape India’s defence partnerships and its pursuit of advanced aerospace technology.

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