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Good progress on Kaveri engine, says DRDO chief

T.S. Subramanian

To be fitted onto Light Combat Aircraft Tejas; prototype integration in 2007

CHENNAI: "There is good progress" on the development of the indigenous Kaveri engine to be ultimately fitted onto India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, according to M. Natarajan, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.

"We are planning to integrate a prototype Kaveri engine into one of the LCA prototypes sometime in 2007 to understand the nuances of such a complex powerpack," he told The Hindu here on Sunday. This was to get a feel of the technical issues associated with such a complex task, he added.

(The Kaveri engine is fully indigenously designed and it is under development at the Gas Turbine Research Establishment in Bangalore. The LCA named Tejas is India's state-of-the-art multi-role supersonic aircraft. The Aeronautical Development Agency in Bangalore is the nodal agency for the LCA's design and development. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited — HAL — is an important partner in the LCA programme along with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratories, and public sector organisations. LCA has two Technology Demonstrators, TD1 and TD2, and one Prototype Vehicle, PV1. These three LCAs have flown 392 times as on April 25, 2005.)

Mr. Natarajan, who is also the Director General of the DRDO, said though the LCA and the Kaveri engine were not directly linked, the Kaveri was designed for use in the LCA. The two LCA technology demonstrators and a prototype vehicle were now fitted with imported General Electric (GE) engines. "Two squadrons (of the LCA) will go (fly) with the GE engine. Further squadrons after that will be built with Kaveri," he said.

The fact that the LCA had made more than 390 flights "proved beyond doubt the basic design and soundness of the aircraft," Mr. Natarajan said. The LCA group was now focussing on sensors and weapon packages. The flight envelope was being progressively expanded. Acceleration of the aircraft, braking and steerability were all important parameters that came under the envelope. "If we (the LCA) have to go to 1.4 Mach, we have already crossed 1.1 Mach. We are close to 15 km altitude," he said. Mach 1 is the speed of sound.

Mr. Natarajan said: "Our goal now is to get the initial operational clearance for the LCA by 2007. The user (the Indian Air Force) will further evaluate it beyond that."

Arjun production up

He stoutly denied press reports that the production of Arjun battle tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) at Avadi in Chennai had stopped. "The production of Ajun has picked up," he said. The HVF would deliver 15 tanks before the end of this year. Its aim is to deliver 124 tanks by 2007-08. In the meantime, the Army would operationalise these tanks to gain confidence in using it and any improvements that the Army suggested would be incorporated into Arjun. More orders for Arjun would later be placed.

The control and guidance problems associated with Trishul, India's surface-to-air missile, had been solved. "We are focussing now on the possibility of Trishul being used by the IAF," he said. Before that, Akash, India's surface-to-air missile, and Nag, the anti-tank missile, would be given for user trials.

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