Snecma is offering to deepen its involvement in India's Kaveri indigenous aero-engine programme and may allow the nation to tap technology developed for its flagship M88 fighter powerplant used in the Dassault Aviation Rafale.
Indian defence officials admit the 18,100lb-thrust (80.5kN) Kaveri will not be ready to fly in the country's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for up to three years. The initial LCA test aircraft recently made its maiden flight fitted with one of seven US-built General Electric F404 engines delivered before the USA imposed an embargo on defence exports to India in response to the start of nuclear tests in 1998.
Originally the F404s were only intended for use in the test programme with the LCA, switching to the Kaveri for production aircraft. The French manufacturer is playing down the prospect of the M88 as a straight replacement for the F404, saying it supports India's decision to develop the Kaveri. "Some of the technologies from the M88 could be used in the Kaveri, but we don't feel the M88 could replace it," says Snecma military export operations director Thierry Hurtes. But the company says it would supply the M88, which is of similar size and thrust rating to the F404, if invited.
Snecma has offered turbine blades and digital engine control for the Kaveri, which is being developed by India's Gas Turbine Research Establishment, part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Components would be provided for prototype engines.
V K Aatre, DRDO secretary and special adviser to defence minister George Fernandes, says that while the Indian ministry of defence favours the Kaveri, it would consider an imported engine one conomic grounds.
The Eurofighter Typhoon's Eurojet EJ200 engine is theoretically also a candidate to replace the Kaveri. Industry sources say Eurojet partner Rolls-Royce has held talks with India's Aeronautical Development Agency, which is spearheading LCA development.
The Kaveri engine has had around 1,000h of bench testing (about half the total thought to be required to achieve certification) but has still to undertake flight testing. LCA TD-1 test aircraft has flown three times.
Source: Flight International