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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Kaveri Engine And The LCA Tejas Programmes - PUNK'D By The Indian Media

Had written this post, little earlier, when this issue was in the news. Never got to posting it then. Just didn't feel like. Doing so now, despite the phase having passed by.

Would you express surprised enlightenment today if, during an interview, a freedom fighter mentions that India became independent on August 15 1947?


In 2008, the Government of India performed, what can only be described as a much-delayed course correction - henceforth, the Kaveri engine was to be pursued as an independent programme, unrelated to the Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas project concurrently under development. Engine for the aircraft would be acquired off-the-shelf, as Sweden did to develop its latest, the Gripen3. For a country embarking on the development of its first fighter aircraft1, that should have been a decision taken at the outset.

"For first 20 Tejas production aircraft will be fitted with imported GE engines. Production is in progress at HAL. The issue of Kaveri Engine has been delinked from Tejas production and will surface again only after the Kaveri Engine undergoes all mandatory development tests. Thus initial lots of Tejas production aircraft will feature G.E. Engine."


Thus, as should have been the case, Kaveri is the all-important stepping stone for India to acquire competency, building up an Aero-Engine technology domain knowledgebase, held closely by the ones already in possession of it. Yes, when it comes to developing a practical, high performance gas turbine engine for commercial &/or military application, that uses contemporary technologies & materials, the first initiative would involve re-inventing the wheel, first figuring out the Science & then, finding for yourself, ways to turn the Science into Engineering. The status of the Kaveri engine, w.r.t. Tejas, has remained unchanged for the past half decade.

So imagine the surprise when the Indian Mainstream Media [MSM] cried out in "dismay", bestowing hyperbolic, apocalyptic epithet upon the project. What seemed to trigger this "outrage" was a quote from the Director of the Aeronautical Development Agency [ADA], Tejas' nodal agency, in which he just repeated, what has been a 5-year old position. It comes as no surprise, though, that the MSM pulled this stunt, given that sensationalism sells, even if it entails distorting facts. So successful has been their attempt, that search for the term 'LCA Tejas' now ranks these news items higher than the aircraft's own official website, on Google.


Its nobody's argument that GTRE is in no need of restructuring, as are most government-run enterprises, streamlining their operation, infusing new vigour into their pursuits, through capable leadership & infrastructural support, fostering inter-agency competition. Work on developing the engine is being carried out even as the necessary development infrastructure is in the process of being put in place within the country2. It, however, speaks volumes of the ignorance of those who got worked up after reading that piece, given that it is such an old development. Not helping GTRE's efforts one bit was the fact that the Indian Air Force [IAF] decided to redraw their requirement [ASR], demanding more, even as the first iteration of the aircraft [TD-1] made its maiden flight. Despite IAF shifting the goalpost, the Kaveri still managed to fulfil portions of the new requirements4. Admitted, this is of no consolation to the IAF which has specific requirements5.

However, for those on the outside, it helps being aware of the context & underlying challenges faced, to help provide perspective to their "outrage", least they become suckers, once more, to the less-than-honest ways of many in the Indian news & entertainment industry6.


1 = the HF-24 'Marut' was primarily an effort lead by German Engineer Kurt Tank & his team of German Engineers.

2 = "Boeing will also establish a high-altitude engine test facility as well as a trisonic wind tunnel facility at DRDO for testing and R&D of aeroengines and aerodynamic bodies"

3 = France that has one of the oldest history in aviation development, including turbofan engines, too begun its latest Rafale development programme with the U.S. supplied GE-404 engine to power the initial iterations of the aircraft, instead of using anything indigenous.

4 = "During this test the Kaveri did well, generating 49.2 KiloNewtons (KN) of “dry thrust”, marginally less than its target of 51 KN. But there was a serious shortfall in “wet thrust”; the Kaveri generated just 70.4 KN, well short of the targeted 81 KN."

5 = Some perspective is in order. France's requirement for the Rafale was expressed in the mid-70s. The first Rafale Technology Demonstrator [TD] flew around 10-11 years later in 1986. Not dissimilarly, India's maiden effort, the Tejas TD-1 flew 16 years after its own needs were formulated. Just 5 years more than what it took Rafale. In the 11 years it took France to come up with the TD, never did its Air Force/Navy feel the need to change its requirements. Yet, the IAF found the Tejas not meeting its needs after the TD-1, that was built keeping in view IAF's own laid-down specifications, took to the air with just 5 additional years. Thus, the same Kaveri engine that was being developed to meet original requirements, now had to meet the new ones. Due consideration would lead one to conclude that equal share of what presently ails the Kaveri is due to IAF's myopia in, first, setting requirements [started of as an interceptor. Changes its ASR, asks for a multi-role aircraft with double the weapon carrying capability (2 tonne, increased to 4 tonne)], as also its own inflated requirements in the country's maiden venture, keeping in mind the state of scientific & industrial setup available at that time.

6 = For the record, this blog has consistently reflected the position that the Kaveri Engine development programme is independent of the LCA Tejas project,

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"Decoupled from the development of the aircraft, is the design & development of an indigenous Turbofan engine that is to power the next Advance Medium Combat Aircraft [AMCA], the GTX-35VS Kaveri Engine. Subject to structural compatibility, if things proceed smoothly, it may even power the Mk 2 version of the Light Combat Aircraft that is currently being designed to be powered by the GE F414 engine selected recently."

- India's Light Combat Aircraft [LCA], Tejas [Wallpaper-sized pictures] [Updated]

Monday, February 06, 2012

"In the ensuing period, the Gas Turbine Research Establishment [GTRE], the nodal agency in-charge of the project, has reached the final stages of negotiations before signing an agreement with French Aero-Engine developer, Snecma, to seek their consultancy & assistance in improving the performance of the Kaveri to meet the requirements of the AMCA, possibly even power the Tejas, if things work out smoothly."

- Know your Rafale: India's latest Fighter Aircraft acquisition [MMRCA winner, most likely] - UPDATE [2012.02.07]

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

"Many of these technologies could also find their way into the Light Combat Aircraft Mk. 3 that is to be more stealthy than the current Mk. 2 version, which is due to fly in the next two years with the General Electric F414 engine and be ready for operational trials in 2016. The Mk. 3 is to have up to 70% composite content, almost double the current version's level, and could be powered by India's Kaveri turbofan, if that troubled program gets back on track."

- Stealth version of India's Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas, Mk. 3 on the cards

Related: Futuristic Indian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - with flapping wings or insect-like motion