Staff Reporter

Bangalore: Manufacturers are queuing up for a share in the long-delayed development of the Kaveri jet engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The Safran group, which owns Snecma, French engine manufacturer, has said it is willing to invest up to 50 per cent of the development cost of the engine, which it estimates now at $ 1 billion.

The company has said that its focus will be to get the production version of the engine finished as fast as possible. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had hired Snecma as the consultant in 2006 to troubleshoot the Kaveri GTX-35VS, which is still in a prototype phase even though the Gas Turbine Research Establishment started work on it in 1986. The engine is said to have problems with its thrust and is heavy. It failed its high-altitude tests in Russia in 2004. Reservations were also expressed about the ambitions for engine, which is hoped will feature thrust vectoring of the kind found in the SU-30 MKI aircraft.

"You need to master different complex technologies. It is one thing to get a prototype ready for research and another to make it a production engine," said Jean-Paul Bechat, Chief Executive Officer, Safran. Snecma itself took about 13 years to get the M88 engine into production for the French Rafale fighter. Even the Rafale had to enter service with the GE F404 engine as Tejas is going to do now.

The group also owns Turbomeca, which supplies engines to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. The helicopter is getting an upgraded engine named Shakti, and Safran has offered to shift more of the production of the engine to India.