DRDO and Safran to develop engine for indigenous stealth fighter

With deal likely to be inked soon, India and France will collaborate to build a 125KN engine for Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft

February 27, 2022 07:52 pm | Updated 09:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with France Defence Minister Florence Parly, during a meeting in Paris on Feb 21, 2022.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with France Defence Minister Florence Parly, during a meeting in Paris on Feb 21, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

India and France are close to concluding a deal, likely in the next couple of months, for the joint development of a 125KN engine for the indigenous fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) under development, according to defence officials. The collaboration is between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and French engine maker Safran.

“External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar discussed this issue with French Defence Minister Florence Parly during his visit to Paris [last week]. We expect to have an agreement in a month or two,” a defence official said.

In December 2021, speaking at an event after Ms. Parly’s visit to India, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said a major French company will come to India and “make the engine in strategic partnership with an Indian company”.

Last year, the government had informed Parliament that it is proposed to develop indigenous engines for powering aircraft such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) variants and AMCA in association with an international engine house.

Stealth aircraft

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is currently working on the LCA-Mk2 along with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as well as the AMCA and the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), for the Navy.

The initial design of the AMCA started way back in 2009 and is envisaged as a twin engine stealth aircraft with internal weapons bay and Diverterless Supersonic Intake, which has been developed for the first time and for which the design is complete, as reported by The Hindu earlier. It will be a 25 tonne aircraft with internal carriage of 1,500 kg of payload and 5,500 kg external payload with 6,500 kg of internal fuel.

Speaking at an event last week, Girish S. Deodhare, Director General, ADA, said the configuration has been frozen, Preliminary Service Quality Requirements (PSQR) are finalised and the preliminary design review is complete. The Critical Design Review (CDR) is expected later this year with the roll out planned in 2024 and first flight planned in 2025, Dr. Deodhare stated.

The AMCA will have stealth and non-stealth configurations, and would be developed in two phases — an AMCA MK1 with existing GE414 engine, and an AMCA Mk2 with an advanced, more powerful engine planned to be jointly developed, Dr. Deodhare added.

Once the agreement is concluded with France, development of the aircraft as well as the engine will progress parallelly to meet the timelines, officials acknowledged. The manufacturing and production of the aircraft is planned through a Special Purpose Vehicle, which will also involve private industry.

Simultaneously, the project for the development of a twin engine deck-based fighter jet meant to fly from the Navy’s aircraft carriers is also making progress. On the various programmes underway, Dr. Deodhare said there is commonality of systems and technologies.

India has in the past unsuccessfully attempted to indigenously design and develop a jet engine for the LCA under the Kaveri programme sanctioned in 1989. The project, which ran for 30 years with an expenditure of ₹2,035.56 crore, before being shelved, saw the development of nine full prototype engines and four core engines.

The Shakti engine, which powers the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter and its later variants, is a joint development between Safran and HAL.

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