DRDO and French major snecma to finalize engine price for LCA
|Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will soon be finalizing the price of the joint venture with French major Snecma for the development of the engine to power India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The joint venture will be between DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) and Snecma to create better gas turbine engines to power the LCA. French firm Snecma is expected to bring technology for the hot engine core and GTRE will work on the cold sections. GTRE will have half of the technology work-share and Snecma will have the other half, according to DRDO sources. GTRE will obtain technical know-how and intellectual property rights for the engine.|
Once the cabinet committee on security approval is obtained, work will be initiated and the Snecma-Kaveri engine will be designed and built in four years.
GTRE has spent nearly two decades in the development of the indigenous Kaveri engine and it is still overweight by around 150 kilograms and cannot provide sufficient thrust from its core engine, required to power the LCA. A jet engine has a cold and a hot part and the latter forms the core of the engine where combustion and the thermodynamics of the engine take place.
The LCA requires an engine with more than 90 KN thrust, while the Kaveri has thrust of only 65 KN thrust. Even the GE-404 that is powering the LCA has a lesser thrust. Hence, the new Snecma-GTRE venture aims at creating a more powerful engine for the LCA.
As of now, the LCA Mk-1 with India is flying with the GE-404 IN20 despite the fact that it does not meet original requirement specifications for levels of thrust for the LCA.
DRDO has selected the more powerful GE-414 as the alternative engine for LCA Mk-II. However, it has been suggested that when the first 40 GE 404 engines in the initial two squadrons of the LCA for the Indian Air Force (IAF) get phased out, they should be replaced by the Kaveri-Snecma, in future. Not only does DRDO plan to replace the GE engines on the LCA Mk-I with the Snecma-GTRE engine, it intends to include it in the proposed advanced medium combat aircraft and unmanned combat air vehicle.
Earlier, the Kaveri-Snecma joint venture was criticised by the IAF on grounds that Snecma, which is a derivative of the M-88 engine developed for the Rafale aircraft, has a similar core like that of the Kaveri engine and the joint venture involves GTRE building the peripheral of the core, which would not solve the purpose of having the joint venture since it will turn out to be a license production of Snecma.
By the inclusion of Snecma, the purpose of indigenisation is defeated by the GTRE. However, GTRE feels that in the co-development with Snecma, the research and development of GTRE for decades on the Kaveri engine will also be absorbed. Besides, Snecma will bring in the core called "Eco” for the new engine, and integrate it with systems developed for Kaveri and is not hesitant on sharing technology with India.