AMCA: IAF Likely to Insist on Indigenous Engine Development Clause

Indian Air Force

New Delhi: With the government keen on pursuing “Make in India” in the defence sector, the Indian air force is likely to insist on a clause for development of an indigenous aero engine when it clears a multi-billion dollar programme to go ahead with the next generation Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The fighter aircraft which is expected to take to the skies by 2026 as per current projects – are being planned to substitute costly imports of combat aircraft in the future, with the air force keen that a home grown engine be developed for true self dependence.

While the first two squadrons of the AMCA will be powered by a variant of American origin GE 414 engine, but the condition laid down for the project is that a parallel process be initiated by DRDO to develop a aero engine plant with foreign collaboration. “A clear path towards developing our own aero engine is essential and should be done along the AMCA programme which is being supported. If needed, foreign collaboration from western nations that have advanced technologies can be sought,” officials said.

The assessment is that engine technologies needed for future aircraft are available with nations like France, UK and the US while traditional ally Russia has lagged behind in the field. The Indian side is also keen not to repeat a deficiency in the Chinese weapons development programme where the lack of a reliable aero engine programme is seen as an impediment.

The IAF has put its weight behind the project as well, along with the Light Combat Aircraft. Ahead of the Air Force day, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had said that “on the fifth generation (requirement), the AMCA has been given a go ahead and we have given it our whole support and are putting in our energies there” and that no imports were planned in the foreseeable future.

However, the plans to develop the indigenous Kaveri fighter jet engine as part of the Rafale offsets deal have not taken off, even though presentations have been made by the French side on creating an aircraft engine ecosystem in India. Similarly, a plan to share jet engine technology under the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) has been suspended last year after little progress was made by the two sides following detailed discussion.

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