The Indian government has decided to release $622 million to continue development work on the Kaveri engine that will power the Air Force’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), a project already a decade behind schedule.
The government since 1989 has spent about $311 million on the engine’s development. A Defence Ministry official said the additional $622 million was needed to accelerate the program so that the Kaveri is available by 2007, when the LCA is to enter service with the Indian Air Force. The state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has purchased 17 GE 404 engines for the LCA aircraft that will go into service first.
The Kaveri engine is being developed by the Bangalore-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment and the Aeronautical Development Agency under the aegis of DRDO.
However, sources in the DRDO said Dec. 27 that the additional funds also will be used to develop a more powerful version of the Kaveri engine than planned for the LCA, and that this version will be used for the Medium Combat Aircraft.
The DRDO plans to develop the Medium Combat Aircraft to meet future Air Force requirements. Details on the upgrade of the Kaveri engine meant for the Medium Combat Aircraft are not known, but sources said only slight alterations would be needed.
The government already agreed to a DRDO proposal submitted two years ago for the Medium Combat Aircraft, for which about $1.5 billion would be spent on the design and development of two prototypes. The DRDO’s Aero-nautical Development Agency in Bangalore would head up the program.
The Medium Combat Aircraft, projected for service around 2015, is to be powered by two thrust-vector Kaveri engines and is likely to have stealth capability. It will replace the aging Jaguar and the Mirage aircraft.
The Defence Ministry official said the current version of the Kaveri engine for the LCA is undergoing flight trials in Russia on Tupolev Tu-17 aircraft. After the completion of trials in Russia, the DRDO plans to apply for flight certification, the officials said.
Two prototypes of the LCA, being built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Bangalore, thus far have been test-flown only with the GE 404 engines.
One DRDO scientist said Dec. 28 that the engine trials in Russia are to gather altitude performance data, noting that the “baseline performance of the engine is in close agreement with the predictions.”
The scientist admitted that development of the Kaveri engine was scheduled for completion in 2002, but it “is a technologically complex and vital system and incorporates state-of-the-art technologies.”
Four prototypes of the Kaveri engine have been built.