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US may clear hi-tech engines for new generation Tejas fighter jets during Doval’s visit

IAF Light Combat Aircraft Tejas (Image courtesy: PIB)

The Joe Biden administration appears to have cleared the manufacturing of GE-414 jet engines — a move that will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ doctrine.

India said on Wednesday that the United States has committed to an “expeditious review” of the license application submitted by General Electric (GE) to produce jet engines in India for the indigenously-manufactured Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

The decision was taken following the meeting between the US Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen Hicks and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval in Washington on Tuesday.

GE Aviation will initially partner with the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) as the nodal agency for the 100-per cent Transfer of Technology (ToT).

NSA Doval
National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington (Image courtesy: Embassy of India in the United States)

The Hindustan Times reported that the GE-414 engines will equip the heavier Tejas-Mark II, which will incrementally replace the twin-engine MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Tejas Mark II will be rolled out by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) early next year and take to the skies by the end of 2024.

The Mark II Tejas will be a 4.5-generation aircraft, which will carry nearly 6.5 tonnes of missiles and ammunition. It will be a much more powerful machine than the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark I, which is replacing the vintage MiG-21 planes. It carries only 3.5 tonnes of missiles and ammunition and has half the operational range and war-fighting capability of Mark II.

The LCA Tejas is an indigenously developed 4.5 generation fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (Image courtesy: Twitter/@IAF_MCC)

Eventually, the HT reported, India plans to produce more than six squadrons (each squadron has 18 aircraft) of the Mark II aircraft for the IAF. It will also export the fighter jet to interested countries under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ route.

Besides, the GE-414 engine will also power the twin-engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) under development by the Bengaluru-based ADA, which is the nodal agency under DRDO for the development of LCAs. The fighter is expected to take to the skies at the end of this decade with its naval version operating on aircraft carriers.

Also accompanying NSA Doval on the US visit were Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and DRDO Director General besides other senior officials from National Security Council Secretariat.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, Hicks called on NSA Doval to discuss priorities for the US-India bilateral defence partnership, including strengthening policy and operational coordination in the Indo-Pacific region as well as increasing defence industrial cooperation between the two countries.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to focus on the joint production of key items of mutual interest in the field of defence manufacturing. A new Innovation Bridge will also be created to connect defence start-ups on both sides.

General Electric (GE) Aviation is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and systems for commercial and military aircraft.

The US company provides jet engines and marine gas turbines for many Indian military applications including the IAF’s Tejas Mark-I, AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters, Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft and P-17 Shivalik class frigates.

The indigenously built Tejas aircraft is one of the best in its class globally, powered by F404-GE-IN20 engines.

After the initial 2004 purchase of 17 F404-GE-IN20 engines, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) ordered an additional 24 F404-GE-IN20 afterburning engines for IAF’s first operational squadron of Tejas in 2007.

In August 2021, HAL placed a $716 million (Rs 5375 crores) order for 99 F404-GE-IN20 engines and support services with GE Aviation to power the single-engine Tejas.

Ordering of the engines marked a major milestone in HAL’s execution of 83-LCA contract (73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-1 Trainer aircraft at a cost of Rs. 45,696 crores) with the IAF.

Under the largest-ever deal and the purchase order placed by HAL for LCA, India is not only looking at pursuing the export potential of Tejas but also to supply spares to the global supply chain of GE 404 engines.

It is believed that after NSA Doval’s discussions with Hicks, a GE Aviation team will visit India in the coming weeks to hold advanced talks with HAL on manufacturing engines in India.

The US Deputy Secretary also thanked NSA Doval for India’s leadership in the region and discussed avenues to deepen coordination between the US and Indian militaries to address the region’s increasingly contested strategic environment.

Also Read: US thanks NSA Doval for India’s leadership role in Indo-Pacific region