Sunday, December 6, 2009

IAF wants EJ200 engines for Tejas, but..


Praveena Sharma

Bangalore: The geopolitical factor that determined state-owned Air India's choice of commercial aircraft in the mid-2000 may come into play again in the Indian government's selection of engines for its indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas.


In 2005, when the national carrier's order for 50 aircraft worth $6 billion went to US aerospace company Boeing, its French rival Airbus Industrie had said it was the "geopolitical factor" that had clinched the deal.

DNA Money has learned that Indian Air Force (IAF), which is the user of LCA Tejas, has in its recommendations to the Ministry of Defence favoured the purchase of European aerospace company Eurojet's EJ200 over US aerospace firm General Electric's F-414. These are the only two companies that have bid for the $750 million order for 99 engines. An IAF official, who did not want to be named, said IAF want the EJ200 to power Tejas so that there is no delay in building the LCA with enhanced power. The government is currently carrying out technical evaluation of the two military aircraft engines.

"The thrust of EJ200 (about 85+ kilonewton) may be slightly lower than F-414 (95+ kilonewton), but it will easily fit into the LCA. And if the weight is reduced, its (EJ200) power will be adequate. Thus, we will not have to change the design of the fuselage," the official said.

The official said since the F-414 was a "fatter" engine with a bigger diameter, it could require redesigning of fuselage. "And if that happens, then all the test flights, many of which have already been carried out, will have to be repeated and the whole programme could get considerably delayed. It will also escalate the cost."

He, however, said the price of the European engine was higher than the American engine. "Generally, aircraft equipments bought from US are cheaper because of their scale of production. European manufacturers do not have the same volumes and so tend to be expensive," he said.

But even though the IAF is pitching for the EJ200, the final decision would be made by the Ministry of Defence with inputs from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) -- the state-owned company that is manufacturing the aircraft -- and Defence Research and Development Organisation.

A defence analyst, who did not want to be named, said looking at direction of the winds in the Indo-US relationship, which is very positive at the moment, the aircraft engine deal could well fall in the lap of the US aerospace company.

He said the order for F-414 would also work in favour of HAL and ADA. "It (F-414 order) will mean more money and work for both of them (HAL and ADA) as the aircraft require redesigning. This way we will get more business. Everybody is trying to push their own agenda," he said. "My guess is that F-414 will be thrust upon the IAF despite the fact that they want the EJ200 because Americans are pushing hard for it."

The two major aircraft and engine manufacturers are aggressively lobbying for the engine deal because its outcome will have a bearing on India's order for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) worth over $10 billion.

"The government is likely to go for aircraft, which is powered by the same engine as Tejas. One argument is that if these fighter jets come in time, then any delay in the Tejas programme will have less significance on the IAF," said the analyst.

www.dnaindia.com

3 comments:

good news for pakistan the more the delay in engine acquisition the better for pakistan

Allah-O-Akbar

Pakistan zindabad

Interesting - wondered how Saab managed to squeeze a F414 into JAS39B in NG/Demo program.

i dont think the GE-414 engine has larger daimeter,If you go through GE website you would find that daimeter of 414 is same as 404 and the length of 414 is less than 404,this means 414 would need less modification in LCA airframe as compared to Eurojet which is longer than that of 414/404 and less daimeter as compared to ej-200 due to which lca airframe would need more no. of modification and renewed flight testing.More ever GE has past experience of working with HAL

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