India and the US plan to advance their defence cooperation further with the Joe Biden government compliantly consenting to allow General Electric, to assemble 98 kilo-newton thrust GE-F414 jet engines in India in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
The India specific GE-F414 INS6 engine will power the LCA (light combat aircraft) Tejas Mark II and the under-development twin engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
While the Narendra Modi government is tight-lipped about the entire project, HT learns that the GE-414 engine will be manufactured under terms that include 100% transfer of technology (ToT), with the deal likely to be sealed during the on-going visit of the high-level delegation led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to the US. Accompanying Doval to the bilateral dialogue on “Critical and Emerging Technologies” with US NSA Jake Sullivan are scientific adviser to Raksha Mantri, Satheesh Reddy, DRDO chief Samir V Kamat, principal scientific adviser Ajay Sood, and secretary (telecom) K Rajaram.
One Monday night, at a dinner hosted by Indian Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu and attended by senior US officials including Sullivan, Doval highlighted the need to convert intentions and ideas into actions and specific deliverables through focused steps in a timebound manner.
The negotiations for 100% local manufacturing of GE-414 engines began when then DRDO chief Satheesh Reddy under instructions of NSA Doval visited US in May 2022 to meet US undersecretary of defence for research and engineering Heidi Shyu, and her colleague Terry Emmert, the principal deputy chief technology officer for mission capabilities.
While GE-404 engine powers 4+ generation LCA Tejas Mark I aircraft, the GE-414 engine will power the 4.5 generation TEJAS MK-2 , which will carry nearly 6.5 tonnes of missiles and ammunition and will be a replacement for Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 aircraft. The TEJAS MK-1, which is a replacement for MiG-21, carries only 3.5 tonnes of missiles and ammunition and has half the operational range and war fighting capability of MK-2.
India plans to produce more than six squadrons (each squadron has 18 aircraft) of the MK-2 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, and will also be exporting the fighter to interested countries.
The GE-414 engine will also power the twin-engine advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) under development by ADA, which is the nodal agency under DRDO for the development of TEJAS fighters. The fighter is expected to take to the skies at the end of this decade with its naval version operating on aircraft carriers.
With the Biden administration giving permission for 100% manufacturing TOT to GE, this will lay the foundation for future joint design, development, and manufacture of high-powered engines beyond 110 KN thrust between two countries. This will not merely showcase Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ mission but also make India one of the leading civilian as well as military aircraft manufacturers in the world.