On the eve of the momentous India-US F-414 jet engine deal, both the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are poised to manufacture the Tejas Mk2 fighter by 2027-28, with the former aiming to unveil the prototype powered by the GE F414 engine by the end of 2024.
The GE F414 engine, subject to approval from the US Congress, will be produced in India with a complete transfer of technology (TOT), and it will not only propel the Tejas Mk2 but also the twin-engine advanced multi-role combat aircraft (AMCA-I) and the twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF).
In light of India’s plans to manufacture a minimum of six squadrons of Tejas Mk2 fighters for the Indian Air Force once 83 F-404 powered Tejas Mk1A jets have been produced and delivered to the military, the ADA has already acquired eight GE F414 jet engines, finalized the design, and obtained critical design review approval from the IAF. The agency is set to roll out the Tejas Mk2 prototype for testing and operational clearance by the end of 2024.
With PM Narendra Modi and his national security team successfully facilitating the “Make in India” approach for the GE F414 engine, HAL is now preparing for the forthcoming challenge as it focuses solely on manufacturing the GE engine. The task at hand requires the production of no fewer than 500 aircraft engines in India. It is anticipated that both the HAL Bengaluru division and the Nashik division will be entrusted with this responsibility and will commence production in collaboration with GE. HAL already possesses experience in manufacturing aircraft engines, having assembled AL31-FP after-burning turbofan engines for the Russian Su-30MKI assembly in India.
Experts indicate that HAL will shift its complete attention to the production of the Tejas Mk2 fighter and the GE-414 engine once the production line for the Tejas Mk1A model starts to wind down.
American defence major General Electric and HAL will sign an MoU for the manufacturing of the F414 engine, with the exchange of instruments taking place in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden in Washington.
While the ADA, under the DRDO, expresses confidence in delivering the MK-2 on schedule, the pressure will now be on HAL to motivate its workforce and meet the forthcoming challenge. Even though the engine production will be a joint effort between GE and HAL, the government may consider establishing a special-purpose vehicle to produce the Tejas Mk2 fighters and meet the deadlines set by the IAF.