India & France to jointly develop 110kn engine to power future Jet

Even as the central auditor has raised questions on non-completion of high end technology transfer as part of the Rafale fighter jet offsets deal, ET has learnt that a new fighter jet engine complex spearheaded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is in the works, with advanced discussions on for a completely new engine for future Indian fighters with a French manufacturer.

The new engine complex is being set up as a national mission to develop a 110 kilo newton powered engine for the future class of advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) and could produce the engine within seven years of starting work.

Rafale with Snecma M88-4E engine
Rafale with Snecma M88-4E engine

French engine manufacturer Safran has offered a compete technology transfer to develop the engine and use the offset credits from the Rafale deal and is also tying up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for transferring manufacturing technology for high end engines.

“We are signing an agreement related to the technology needed for high thrust engine manufacturing. The technology will be common to the Rafale engines that can be supported by us and would also be useful for the 110 kn engine project,” HAL Chairman R Madhavan told ET.

While the new engine complex is yet to be set up, the broad understanding is that it would cater to high end fighter jet engines while HAL would be involved in lower thrust engines for helicopters, light transport aircraft, UAVs and trainers.

Tejas mk2
Tejas mk2

HAL is also likely to be part of the 110 kn engine project as a manufacturing partner. As reported by ET, the air force is keen that the future AMCA fighter jet be powered by an indigenous engine to ensure self reliance. While the first squadron of the AMCA fighters would need a foreign engine due to timelines, future squadrons would be powered by an Indian engine, which could possibly be christened the Kaveri.

As reported, in a report referring to the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out on Wednesday that plans for transfer of high end technology as part of the offsets deal have not been completed and it not clear if it will even take place in the future.

ET has been reporting that plans to use the Rafale offsets for obtaining jet engine technology has been hanging since 2016, even though French company Safran has been in talks with Indian stakeholders. French companies can modify offset plans at any point but have a huge obligation – to the tune of 3.5 billion Euro – that need to be competed in the next three years, though this timeline can be extended by the government.

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