GTRE (Gas Turbine Research Establishment) developed indigenous Kaveri Dry engine will be heading to Russia soon to be tested from a Modified IL-76 which it uses as a Flying Test Bed at Gromov. India lacks High Altitude flight test facility that includes a Flying Test Bed (FTB) for its military afterburning turbofan projects due to which it needs to depend on France and Russia for testing of experimental engine programs that are vulnerable to external espionage and even after repeated demands from the GTRE it has fallen into deaf ears.

Heading to Russia or some other country is not only a time-consuming process but also costs a country lot of money since thousand of hours that needs to be accumulated before an engine can be validated for which we need to get us a Flying Test Bed (FTB) of our own. Flying Test Bed (FTB) can validate engine performance at 40,000 to 50,000 feet above the ground and also highlights any serious issues with the program that needs to be fixed while maintaining highest margin of safety.

There was a time when India and China could head to Russia for testing their engines on the modified IL-76 Flying Test Bed (FTB) but China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) currently operates a flying testbed converted from a Russian-made Il-76MD jet transport aircraft to serve as a flying testbed for future engine development programs. The first engine to be tested on the aircraft was the WS-10A “Taihang” turbofan, currently being developed as the powerplant for China’s indigenous J-10 and J-11 fighter aircraft.

GTRE had requested two Flying Test Bed (FTB) one being a modified IL-76 where one engine can be swapped for an experimental engine out of its four to test the engine throughout its paces and the second one was to have an old Mig-29 as Flying Test Bed (FTB) for pre-production ready engines where one engine can be swapped while one established engine ensures safety. The idea was to also validate much more stress on the new engine since fighter jets need to maneuver and spin, turn much more than a modified transport aircraft that puts immense stress on the engine that it has to be validated that it can be used as the powerplant for a fighter jet.

Procuring IL-76 or any other commercially available plane to be used as Flying Test Bed (FTB) or a second-hand Mig-29 from ex-operators is not a challenging task but it shows how non-serious are people in the Ministry of Defence who over the last 30 years have not even invested in basic testing facilities in the country and expect engineers and scientist to build a workable engine for peanuts that they sanction as funds for the program.

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Article by RAJESH AHUJA/,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or