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First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years

Source : The Times of India

First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years
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First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years

NEW DELHI: India expects the first GE-F414 jet engine to be jointly produced with the US to roll out in three years to power the indigenous Tejas Mark-2 fighters, in the project that will involve 80% transfer of technology (ToT) and herald a new era in the bilateral defence-industrial collaboration.

The MoU inked between General Electric (GE) Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in Washington will translate into the actual contract “within a few months” after conclusion of some remaining commercial negotiations, a top government officer said on Friday.

While the final pricing is still to be fixed, the officer said it should cost “less than $1 billion” for 99 such engines. The caveat, however, is that the production of the engines will have to match the timelines for the manufacture of the 120-130 Tejas Mark-2 fighters.

The 17.5-tonne jet is still in the design and development phase after the Cabinet Committee on Security in August last year cleared the development of its prototypes at an overall cost of over Rs 9,000 crore, which will have to be followed by extensive flight-testing and certification process.

Nevertheless, the joint India-US statement said PM Modi and President Biden “hailed the landmark MoU” for the manufacture of GE-F414 engines in India in the “trailblazing initiative” that will “enable greater transfer of US jet engine technology than ever before”.

The two major takeaways in the defence sector were the co-production of GE-F414 engines and India’s proposed $3.5 billion acquisition of 31 armed MQ-9B Predator or Reaper drones, which will be assembled in India, both of which were steered by defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Drone-manufacturer General Atomics will establish a “comprehensive global MRO facility” in India as part of the deal, which can cater to other countries like Australia and Japan, as was reported by TOI earlier.

While there will be little ToT in the drone deal, the GE-F414 story is a different story. Jet engine technology is among the toughest to master in the military arena, with only the US, Russia, France and the UK succeeding in it. China is also somewhere there due to its “reverse-engineering” skills. India’s own attempt with the Kaveri aero-engine flopped despite developmental work since 1989.

It’s no wonder Indian officials are all tom-tomming the GE-F414 pact, which will lead to 11 key technologies being transferred to HAL. The seven with “complete ToT” are special coatings for corrosion, erosion and thermal barrier for hot-end; blisk machining; machining thin-walled titanium casing; friction welding; PMC (polymer matrix composites) for bypass duct; laser drilling technology for combustor; and bottle boring of shafts.

One critical technology for which “machining only” is on offer is “forging/powder metallurgy discs for turbines”. Machining and coating, in turn, is on offer for “single crystal for turbine blades; castings for nozzle-guide vanes and other hot end parts; and ceramic matrix composites for nozzles and flaps.

“India has been in talks for the GE-F414 engines since 2012. At that time, only 58% ToT was offered. Now, it’s 80%, which is of an unprecedented kind and scale, and critically important for India. It shows India has gained trust and confidence among US policy-makers,” an official said.

With the GE-F414 INS6 turbofan engines in the 98 Kilonewton thrust class, the Tejas Mark-2 jets will have better operational capabilities, a longer combat range and greater weapon-carrying capacity than the existing Tejas Mark-1 jets, which have the older GE-F404 engines procured without ToT.

The first two squadrons of the planned fifth-generation stealth AMCA (advanced medium combat aircraft) are also likely to have GE-F414 engines. The next five AMCA Mark-2 squadrons, in turn, will have a more powerful 110 Kilonewton engine to be developed with foreign collaboration. Though India is also in talks with Rolls-Royce and Safran Group, GE will now probably be the front-runner in the fray. First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years First Made in India General Electric F-414 engine to be rolled out in 3 years IgMp

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