The Indian Air Force’s plans to equip its Jaguar deep penetration strike fighters with a new and more powerful engine have hit a hurdle, with UK’s Rolls-Royce dropping out of the race to re-engine the plane.
Roll-Royce’s withdrawal from the competition has left US firm Honeywell as the only one angling for the $670-million (R3,015 crore) order for powering the twin-engine fighter with new engines (re-engining in air force parlance). The IAF had invited bids from the two firms for 200 engines.
The British firm’s last-minute decision to stay clear of the tender has created a single-vendor situation, one that could slow down the Jaguar’s re-engining programme.
The defence ministry may have to re-open the competition and invite fresh bids. Also, according to defence procurement rules if a certain equipment manufactured by only one vendor has to be bought to gain an edge over India’s adversaries, the case would have to be debated by the defence acquisition council after a through technology scan. Rolls-Royce’s Adour Mk 811 engines currently power the Jaguars, inducted in late 1970s.
Former IAF vice chief Air Marshal PK Barbora (retd) said, “The thrust generated by the existing engines has dropped over the years. The underpowered engines impact the all-up weight of the aircraft. The re-engining programme is a crucial one for the IAF.”
Rolls-Royce, the second largest engine maker in the world, had offered the IAF its Adour Mk821 powerplant, an upgraded variant of the existing engine. Honeywell has tossed its hat in the ring for the re-engining race with its F125 IN engine.
IAF deputy chief Air Marshal RK Sharma said, “This is a re-engining contract and not an engine upgrade programme. We expect the two bidders to respond by the month-end.”
Sources said Rolls-Royce informed the IAF it would not be responding to request for proposal and has explained reasons behind the decision.