Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Search for Tejas engine nears its end: decision likely before March 2010, price will determine winner



Photo: One of the LCA prototypes at HAL Bangalore, fitted with fuel drop tanks



By Ajai Shukla
Bangalore
Business Standard, 24th Nov 09

For two years, the Aeronautical Development Agency --- the agency developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) --- has searched for an engine to boost the performance of India’s homegrown fighter. With bids for two engines --- the General Electric F-414, and the Eurojet EJ200 --- submitted on 12th October, Business Standard has learned that ADA will select one before March 2010.

The GE F-404, one of fighter history’s iconic engines, currently powers the Tejas. But its 82-85 kilonewtons (KN) of thrust does not provide the acceleration or the sustained turning ability needed by the Tejas in air-to-air combat. ADA wants the Tejas to have 90-95 KN of thrust, which both the EJ200 and the GE F-414 provide. And so the F-404 will power only the first two Tejas squadrons; all subsequent LCAs, including the naval version, will fly with either the F-414 or the EJ200.

Dr Dipankar Banerjee, the DRDO’s Chief Controller of Aeronautics, says two crucial factors will determine the winner: which engine fits into the Tejas with minimal re-engineering; and which one works out cheaper (acquisition cost + operating cost).

The DRDO officer, who guides the Tejas programme, debunked the long-held belief that the Tejas would require major re-engineering for fitting the new engine. “We have evaluated both engines and we believe only minor changes will be needed in the fuselage of the Tejas”, said Dr Banerjee. “Which engine is selected will be largely determined by its cost.”

Both engines, however, need minor design modifications by their vendors to meet the specific requirements of the Tejas. According to Dr Banerjee, “The Eurofighter Typhoon is powered by two EJ200 engines, but the LCA has just a single engine. For safety reasons, it must have a re-ignition system to restart the engine automatically if it goes off in mid-flight.”

And since the selected engine will also power the naval Tejas, the EJ200 needs to be protected against the corrosive salt-water naval environment.

The EJ200’s rival, the GE F-414, has neither of these concerns; it already powers the single-engine Gripen fighter, as well as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which the US Navy operates off aircraft carriers. But there are two other concerns over the F-414. Firstly, it needs to be tweaked to provide greater thrust during some periods of a flight, when it appears to deliver less power. And, since it is an American engine, export controls are potentially troublesome.

Eurojet, however, insists that re-ignite software is an integral part of the EJ200. Hartmut Tenter, Managing Director of Eurojet, explained to Business Standard, “If the EJ200 goes off in mid-flight, the aircraft decelerates sharply. The engine software recognizes that and automatically initiates the re-ignite procedure. It’s automatic; the pilot has to do nothing.”

Both Eurojet and General Electric consider this engine contract as vital. The order for 99 engines (plus options for another 49) is worth an estimated US $750 million. But, far more importantly, both see this contract as a way of getting a foot in the door for the US $11 billion Medium Fighter contract. Eurojet EJ200 engines power the Eurofighter Typhoon, while GE F-414s power both the F/A-18 and the Gripen NG. Getting a contract for the engine is seen as a giant first step towards getting a contract for the aircraft as well.

Fighter pilots say that a world-class engine makes a world-class fighter. Whenever two fighters face off in a dogfight, as pilots term an aerial duel, the one with the better engines almost always wins. In the old days, better engine power allowed a pilot to twist and turn sharply, to get behind the enemy, and then shoot him down with a burst of cannon fire.

Now, with missiles the primary air-to-air weapon, engine power is more important than ever. The enemy usually appears as a blip on the radar, which the pilot usually detects while “loitering” at low speeds to conserve fuel. He immediately guns his engine, accelerating hard towards the enemy, and launches his missile at nearly twice the speed of sound (Mach 2). As the missile screams towards the enemy fighter at around Mach 4, the pilot throws his fighter into a high-gravity U-turn to dodge the missile that his opponent would have launched by now. The pilot who can accelerate faster, launch first, and then turn away harder --- in other words, the pilot with the more powerful engine --- is usually the one who comes home alive.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

Do you thing it make any sense to induct LCA after 2020. I mean is there any scope for Mk3.

Do you thing these non stealthy birds will be mass produced after say 15 years from now.

fighterclass said...

ajai, great article and thanks for that.

now, any info on radar integration ? rumourmills have it that the AESA radar has progressed considerably ?

what of the first naval prototype, has it been postponed for engine selection ?

Karupaswamy said...

It is so obvious, the way the PM bats for US economy and currency, The engine deal is going to go to GE. Not only the Engine but also the MMRCA contract is going to go in favor of Boeing for the Hornets.

Anonymous said...

It would be better if the engines for LCA are delinked from MRCA contract. If GE gets selected for LCA engines, and if F-16/F-18 gets selected for MRCA, then a huge fleet of IAF would be prone to sanctions if the US so choses.

In the aftermath of the recent nuclear test controversy and US insistence on CTBT, if India were to depend on US for large part of IAF's fleet, then the US can easily bring down our IAF without firing a shot!

It is better to go in for EJ200. Then, whether we select US, Europe or Russia for MRCA contract, it won't matter.

I hope IAF/GoI doesn't put blind faith in US and make IAF entirely dependent on a sanction-prone country.

Anonymous said...

Since J10 is a potent threat from both our north eastern and western borders,is there a need to accelerate the induction even further...
Mark 2 variant of the Tejas will be there by 2016,what is the status of the J10B any news??

Spetsnaz101 said...

Nice one Ajai. Especially the last part where you've explained how important an engine is, in the modern age.

That apart, I think the amount of smoke an engine belches too, contributes to the assessment of an engine. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Col Ajai,

Thank you for the excellent piece. Any talk about TOT for these engines??

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I am angry, and I know this is not the right place to vent my anger. You might probably censor my comment.
The kaveri engine is dead !!, the deadbeats who designed and developed the third class engine should be fired.
I have always felt, why should anyone ever defend their country ?, I mean what does one get by defending the country ?, does it make sense ??...I am all for R & D, I believe one must invest into R & D and develop crucial technologies, but not in the government sector, we know what kind of idiots work there.
India's indigenous fighter has a foreign engine, the reservation candidates who probably work there are happy :), slave to some country. I expected a lot for LCA, any science enthusiast can tell, India is a failure, shame.

Spetsnaz101 said...

Ajai, if you can tolerate my advice, may i suggest you start "tagging" your articles with the topics that its being written on or mentioned. That way its easier to skim through a particular topic that you might have written on the past as well. At the same time, it does not clutter your blog either.

You may check out Shiv's blog to see what 'tagging' looks and works like.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Ajai.

Is it possible to get an update on the LCA testing so far? It appears that as per ADA release, it underwent dumb bomb release tests and hot soak in western sector. Is it possible to get more info on the program so far?

joydeep ghosh said...

thats ok

but ajai sir, I have some queries

Q1. Is their a option for TOT with this deal

Q2. If we r going for foreign supplied engines, does that mean Kaveri engine is gone for good.

Q3. What abt the time frame for supply of these engines

Q4. Cant we just reverse engineer the engines as the chinese do, this will ultimately help us in case there is engine supply problem with MRCA planes (Gripen and F16)

Anonymous said...

ajai ji,

Could you please shed some light on
when is PV5 trainer first flight and LSP 3 integrated with MMR. I am really looking forward to hear some thing new about that.

Thanks

Vijay said...

Lets see for how long babus actually drag their heels on this one.

Wish's said...

Thanks for the info Ajai sir..I would just like to know if the engines would be used for the mk2 squadrons or the from the second squad of LCA's??

Also ,if its manufactured here,wont it be a TOT?which would make it tougher as per US norms to get the GE engine..which gives us EJ as a quicker option..as time is of essence here?

VK said...

The engine deal must go to EJ. They are not going to win the MRCA deal (Eurofighter is costly and MMS is batting for USA) and they are consulting firm for LCA. Their fortunes in India are tied to the LCA program and they will go an extra mile to help us.

Anonymous said...

Sir,last September you posted news of the Kaveri engine going to Russia for testing.Any news on that

Broadsword said...

Wish:

The Mark II is the Tejas with the new engine! How the hell can the second squadron of LCAs have the new engine?

GE has already committed to giving the ToT.

Joydeep:

Q1. Is their a option for TOT with this deal

Yessss. Naturally.

Q2. If we r going for foreign supplied engines, does that mean Kaveri engine is gone for good.

Yessss. Naturally.

Q3. What abt the time frame for supply of these engines

3 years after decision.

Q4. Cant we just reverse engineer the engines as the chinese do, this will ultimately help us in case there is engine supply problem with MRCA planes (Gripen and F16)

What a cunning plan! You can only reverse engineer an engine after you learn how to engineer and engine. Get the drift....?

Spetsnaz 101:

"Ajai, if you can tolerate my advice, may i suggest you start "tagging" your articles with the topics that its being written on or mentioned."

Boss, they are tagged. Not as nicely as Shiv has done it, but I'm not the techno-wiz that Shiv is. But if you go to the bottom of any of my posts, you'll find a list of tags. Click on any of them and all the articles related to that subject will load.

Happy viewing!

Karupaswamy:

"The engine deal is going to go to GE. Not only the Engine but also the MMRCA contract is going to go in favor of Boeing for the Hornets."

I've always been reluctant to make rash predictions of this sort. You end up looking pretty stupid sometimes...

Anonymous 07:32

"Ajai,

Do you thing it make any sense to induct LCA after 2020. I mean is there any scope for Mk3.

Do you thing these non stealthy birds will be mass produced after say 15 years from now."

Firstly, technology seems to change far less slowly than most people believe it will. Remember, 15 years ago was 1994. Most of the equipment that is in service today was either in service, or entering service then.

That notwithstanding, development of complex platforms like the Tejas is an on-going process. Even if stealth is an absolute pre-requisite in 15 years, the stealth fighter flying in 2024 will have many systems that are already being conceived, even developed today for the Tejas Mk II.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

a)If the Gripen has a problem in MMRCA because of US engine how will Tejas MK2 have export possibility?

b)List all countries to whom there is better chance of selling Tejas. Most would be those who don't want US components. Otherwise they could go for f16 or Gripen. Only EJ200 can give that overseas sales to Tejas.

c)By making Tejas based on EJ200, we are just grounding even more aircrafts in the event of sanctions.

d)Right now only expensive aircrafts are based on european engines. A low-cost segment Tejas based on EJ200 will not be seen as competitor by europeans and fully supported for exports to countries with low budget.

e)Eurojet is going to get Thrust Vector Controls soon. This will add to manoueverability of Tejas and compensate for what the design may lack.

Anonymous said...

"c)By making Tejas based on EJ200, we are just grounding even more aircrafts in the event of sanctions."

I think you made a mistake. It should be GE engines not from EuroJet

Mike D said...

Ajai, kudo's on yet another very well written article. With regards to our neighbors and the fact that they would have already started inducting modern fighters into their inventory (by the time Tejas fighters are added to the IAF fleet), could you share your view-point as a defense analyst on the following:
1. Tejas Mk 1 & 2 delivery schedule – (granted that even Tejas Mk1 will be a very capable fighter compared to the MIGs that it’s replacing) at what point of the induction will the Tejas start to provide ‘added benefits’ due to its technology and capabilities considering the fact that initially the IAF will be ‘adding’ to the numbers of it’s depleting fleet
2. Capability and logistical advantages brought upon due to technologies used by the Tejas
3. Psychological impact, if any, on IAF as well as our neighbors
As always, I look forward to your insightful viewpoint.

ken said...

Ajaiji, people always talk about the thrust. Is there any data on engine maintenance cost naturally it would also be included to evaluate. What is the mean time between overhaul of both. Does GE offer include enhanced durablity engine. It is always good to learn from others so howmuch TOT is on offer the platform is going to be our last bet on times of conflict so that means it must not be dependent on others right.

fighterclass said...

ajai, so nothing on the radars ?

Wish's said...

But sir why cant the new engines be used for second squad as they will be available much before its production starts.

Moreover Mk2 is also about stealth and the AESA Radar which I'm sure will take much more time to develop so why have a Squad of LCA's with a lesser engine.

Plz correct me if im worng in my thought.

Anonymous said...

what minor airframe changes mean. they have to change the intake which should be major change.
in the present mk1 they are having aux duct.

so for sure there will be intake change..

Do you think it is minor ?

Kartik said...

Ajaiji, thanks for the article. really look forward to updates on the LCA from your side. I think that quite a lot of people are worried about the lack of news from ADA and HAL regarding progress on the LCA. LSP3 and PV5 are nowhere to be seen and there is simply no news on the radar, whether its been integrated or not, whether OBOGS is integrated or not, why is there no IFR probe installed as yet, etc. etc...could you please post an article giving updates on the LCA program and with some new pictures ? Really the best pics that we've seen of LCA apart from air shows are the ones you post.

Anonymous said...

Can you do an article on the resent LCA Tejas Weapon trials?
Thank You

Karupaswamy said...

Ajai

"I've always been reluctant to make rash predictions of this sort. You end up looking pretty stupid sometimes..."

I am not making a prediction, Mark my word, Time will tell an answer whether it is a stupid prediction or informed judgment. I reiterate that the Engine Deal is going to go to GE and MRCA contract to Boeing.

The IAF is either wasting their time or may be enjoying a free joy ride. The decision has been made even before the decision making process started.

We should feel happy that the Italian's didn't have a plane of their own to field, else our tax money would be going to the pockets of some Mafia Don's as it is happening in some of the Naval Projects.

Ru LCA said...

russian rd-33 12t engine with tot will surpass every thing

Ru LCA said...

russian rd-33 12t engine with tot will surpass every thing

Karupaswamy said...

Since we have already paid and obtained the TOT for the RD93 Engines we should try to use it for LCA - Mark II.

GRTE should be privatized and they should be allowed to continue their R&D on the improvement of Kauveri engines to make it as 100Kn engine.