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Why GE-HAL jet engine deal will add wings to Indian aviation industry

The GE-F414 engines will power the India-designed Tejas Mk2 fighter jets (Image courtesy: Indian Air Force)

General Electric (GE) Aviation – a world-leading provider of jet engines, components, and systems for commercial and military aircraft – announced Thursday that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to produce fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The news about the signing of the agreement, which will allow GE Aerospace’s F414 engines to be co-produced in India to power the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Mk2, was made public less than 12 hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with GE Chairman and GE Aerospace CEO Larry Culp in Washington on Wednesday.

“PM appreciated GE for its long-term commitment of manufacturing in India and called for GE’s greater technology collaborations in India. PM invited GE to play a bigger role in India’s aviation and renewable energy sector,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said after the meeting.

GE Engine Tejas
PM Narendra Modi with Lawrence Culp, Chairman of General Electric and CEO of GE Aerospace in Washington on Wednesday (Image courtesy: PIB)

The MoU is being regarded as a major milestone amidst PM Modi’s official state visit to the United States and a key element in strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries.

“This is a historic agreement made possible by our longstanding partnership with India and HAL,” Culp was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the company.

“We are proud to play a role in advancing President Biden and Prime Minister Modi’s vision of closer coordination between the two nations. Our F414 engines are unmatched and will offer important economic and national security benefits for both countries as we help our customers produce the highest quality engines to meet the needs of their military fleet,” said the GE Aerospace CEO.

The jet engine deal is truly historic as it provides a key element to raise the Indian aviation industry to an altogether new level.

The GE-F414 engines will power the India-designed Tejas Mk2 fighter jets. These fighters will have greater capability than the Tejas Mk1 that are currently in production and are powered by an earlier generation of GE 404 engines. HAL has been tasked to produce 83 Tejas Mk1 jets.

The engine deal will upgrade the capability of both the Aeronautical Design Agency (ADA), which has designed the Tejas family of fighter jets. By next year, ADA would have developed the Tejas Mk 2 prototype, which after testing will be mass-produced by HAL, a Navratna Company that is the largest Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) under the Department of Defence Production.

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

HAL will benefit enormously because it would learn to manufacture nearly 500 GE-F414 engines, following 100 per cent transfer of technology from the parent company. Given the enormity of the task, HAL’s Bengaluru and Nashik divisions will be pressed into service to meet demand. HAL is optimistic of imbibing the GE technology, having the experience of assembling the AL31 FP turbofan engines used by the Russian SU-30 MKI, the current backbone of the Indian Air Force.

The IAF will be the key beneficiary as it would have under its command a family of home-grown state-of-the-art fighter jets, which would not be dependent on foreign vendors. In contingency, production can be ramped up without dependence on foreign suppliers. The IAF is expected to have 5 squadrons — a total of around 100 planes — on the MK-2 variant in its fleet.

The IAF’s combat edge will be sharpened further as the same engines will be used for the more powerful twin-engine advanced multi-role combat jets (AMCA-I). Besides, these engines will power the machines which will deck on India’s aircraft carriers.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, it was during the visit of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval to Washington earlier this year that the United States committed to an expeditious review of the license application submitted by General Electric to produce jet engines in India for the indigenously manufactured LCA Tejas.

GE Aerospace said on Thursday that it continues to work with the US government to receive the necessary export authorization for the potential joint production of F414 engines in India.

During NSA Doval’s visit to the US in Washington, the two countries had agreed to focus on the joint production of key items of mutual interest in the field of defence manufacturing.

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

The Tejas aircraft is one of the best in its class globally, powered by F404-GE-IN20 engines and has been in service since 2004.

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.

Thursday’s agreement will advance GE Aerospace’s earlier commitment to build 99 engines for the IAF as part of the LCA Mk2 programme.

“It puts the company in a strong position to create a family of products in India, including the F404 engine that currently powers the LCA Mk1 and LCA Mk1A aircraft and GE Aerospace’s selection for the prototype development, testing and certification of the AMCA program with our F414-INS6 engine. In addition, GE will continue to collaborate with the Indian government on the AMCA Mk2 engine programme,” said the company.

One of the most successful in military aviation history, the F404 family engines have logged in more than 14 million engine flight hours and have powered 15 different productions and prototype aircraft.

The highest thrust variant of the F404 family, the F404-GE-IN20 incorporates GE’s latest hot section materials and technologies as well as Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) for reliable power and outstanding operational characteristics.

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.

The HAL is enhancing cooperation with the manufacturing of GE F414 engines in India for the LCA MkII programme which would act as a catalyst for transforming the Indian aerospace manufacturing ecosystem into a vibrant Aatmanirbhar-self-sustaining ecosystem.