India's long-delayed Kaveri engine makes flight debut

Singapore
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India has successfully flight tested its Kaveri jet engine using an Ilyushin Il-76 transport as a testbed.

"The engine was tested from take-off to landing and flew for a period of over 1h up to at an altitude of 6,000m [19,700ft] at a speed of Mach 0.6 in its maiden flight," says India's defence ministry. "The engine control, performance and health during the flight were found to be excellent."

The test took place at Russia's Gromov Flight Research Institute near Moscow.

As of last year, India's state-owned Gas Turbine Research Establishment had spent 20 billion rupees ($455 million) over the 20-year programme, but produced a powerplant that was overweight and that failed to provide the 21,000-22,500lb (93-100kN) of thrust required for the Indian air force's Tejas light combat aircraft. Details of the engine's thrust output during the Moscow test have not been disclosed.

"With this test, the Kaveri engine has completed a major milestone of the development programme," says the Indian defence ministry. "During the coming months a further 50-60 test flights will be carried out to mature the engine in terms of reliability, safety and airworthiness. These would pave the way for further flight trials of Kaveri with a fighter aircraft."

Modifications to the Il-76 included the instrumentation required for trials, as well as the integration of mechanical, electrical and fuel systems. The pilot controlled the engine from the cockpit, and a number of taxi trials were also carried out before the maiden flight. Engine data was recorded in the aircraft, and also transmitted to ground station by telemetry.

In early October GE Aviation defeated the Eurojet consortium in a contest to provide the engine for a new MkII version of the Tejas. Under the deal the US manufacturer will supply 99 F414-INS6 turbofans, following a selection decision by India's Aeronautical Development Agency.

New Delhi has previously ordered 41 less-powerful GE F404 engines to power early examples of the Tejas, owing to delays with the Kaveri programme.