Underlining that it is confident of meeting India’s requirement, top British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has said it wants to co-develop AMCA engine with India.
The HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is an Indian programme to develop a fifth-generation stealth, multirole combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy which will also include sixth-generation technologies. The design of the aircraft is carried out by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Alex Zino, executive vice-president Business Development and Future Program for Rolls Royce, in an interview said that the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for the new engine will remain with India.
Rolls-Royce, which powers some of the Indian Air Force aircraft, like the Jaguars, Hawks and the C-130Js, has this month got an order from Air India for 68 Trent XWB-97 engines, in addition to an option for 20 more.
All variants of the Airbus’s A350 aircraft are powered by Rolls Royce XWB engines, of which 300 parts are already made in India. Air India has also ordered 12 Trent XWB-84 engines, the sole engine option for the Airbus A350-900.
The UK has been keen to increase its defence cooperation with India and the biggest project for them is the jet engine technology, an art that India is yet to master.
As of today, around 750 Rolls Royce engines of 10 different types are powering Indian military aircraft.
“We have been in India since 1932 and first partnered with TATA to power aircraft in the country. We have developed from selling kits to transferring technology,” Zino said.
According to Zino, since the 1950s, Rolls Royce has been transferring technology to its partners, which helped the growth of India’s capability from fine-tuning the Adour engines of the Jaguar aircraft to now making parts and finally overhauling them indigenously.
“When we talk about Transfer of Technology, we have already completed two of the three-step processes,” Zino said, explaining that the third step is development and design technology so that India can create its own IP that can be freely modified by the Indian armed and is in complete alignment with the Make in India initiative.
Stating that Rolls Royce wants to take the next step of technology transfer, which is key to making India self-reliant, Zino said, “We want to stay shoulder to shoulder with India for the next 90-100 years.”
Talking about India’s plan to power the Tejas Mk1A, Tejas Mk2 and the first batch of AMCA through the US General Electric engines, Zino said this is being done “off the shelf”.
India and the US are in talks over the jet engine technology — an issue that was also raised by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval earlier this month.
The White House in a statement after the talks between Doval and his American counterpart Jack Sullivan had said the US would expeditiously review an application from General Electric to jointly produce jet engines that could power jet aircraft operated and produced indigenously by India.
When asked about HAL plans to get the GE engines, Zino added that, “It is important for India to decide if this gives them the freedom of modification and self-reliance? Only they can answer that question. India already knows how and why we are willing to partner with them.”
Focus On Marine Engines
Rolls Royce has also tied-up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to offer MT 30 — the most powerful marine gas turbine with a number of navies, including Japan, the UK, South Korea, among others.
Talking about the future of marine engines, Zino said there is a lot of opportunity in marine gas turbine technology and Rolls Royce has powered a number of ships, submarines through the MTU brand.
“We are in conversations (with HAL). Clearly, we also have generators that power over 300 of the US navy fleet. We are trying to market that in India,” Zino added.
Talking on the future of Rolls Royce in India, Kishore Jayaraman, President Rolls Royce India and South Asia, said his company can power frigates, destroyers and all up to aircraft carriers.
“The future is the key. The real question is what we want the modern fleet to look like and what are they going to be powered by. What you need is energy density, fast action possibilities like the HMM Defender that has got the WR-21 diesel engines,” Jayaraman said.
He added that Rolls Royce was also in talks with the Navy. “Air India order is here. We are talking about combat aircraft engines, marine engines. Rolls Royce is here to serve,” Jayaraman said.