US firm General Electric Aviation has routed its European rival Eurojet Turbo to supply more powerful engines for the indigenous light combat aircraft, christened Tejas, in a deal valued over Rs 3,500 crore.
The price negotiating committee for an alternative engine for LCA Mk-II declared on Thursday that GE’s F414 engine had emerged as the lowest bidder, knocking Eurojet’s EJ200 out of competition. “Further price negotiations and contract finalisation will follow,” a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) spokesperson said.
The LCA’s existing GE F404 engine, being underpowered, restricts the fighter’s ability to carry out extreme maneouvres with the desired weapons payload. The GE F404 delivers a thrust of only 80-85 Kilo Newton compared to F414’s 95-100 Kilo Newton. GE will supply 100 engines for LCA-Mk II to be manufactured by Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
The air force plans to induct seven LCA squadrons (some 140 aircraft) over the next decade. The first two squadrons, however, will come with the underpowered GE F404 engines. Air force sources said fitting heavier engines would require design changes in the LCA airframe, an effort that could take three to four years.
The LCA was conceived in 1982 as a replacement for the ageing MiG-21 fighters. The project cost has soared up to Rs5,489.78 crore from the original Rs560 crore. The initial operational clearance for the LCA is expected in December 2010, two years behind schedule.
The indigenous Kaveri engine, which was supposed to power the LCA, has been under development for more than two decades at the Bangalore-based Gas Turbine and Research Establishment.
The struggling project, de-linked from the LCA, is unlikely to be completed before 2012. Sanctioned in 1989 at a cost of Rs382.81 crore, Kaveri's development cost has spiralled to over Rs3,000 crore.
GE Aviation was declared the lowest bidder to supply engines to power India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark-2, the indigenous second-generation Tejas fighters
GE will supply 100 engines for LCA-Mk II to be manufactured by Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
While the GE F404 delivers a thrust of only 80-85 Kilo Newton, the F414 delivers 95-100 Kilo Newton thrust
Air force plans to induct seven LCA squadrons over the next decade. The first two squadrons, however, will come with underpowered GE F404 engines.