I was a bit baffled to see the euphoria amongst visitors to Broadsword over the Kaveri engine flight test announced yesterday by the DRDO. I don’t mean to dampen your Diwali spirits, but if everyone is drawing entirely the wrong lesson from this, I feel I should set the record straight.
The bottom line, as I reported in my Sept 2009 article ("Kaveri jet engine finally poised for first flight") is: this test is the burial ceremony of the indigenous Kaveri development programme. They will measure the parameters etc of the flight tests and then, having quantified what the Kaveri programme has achieved, the file will be closed. Once the flight tests are over, the Kaveri-Snecma programme will begin, in which Snecma will bring to the table a fully developed engine core.
If anyone can be bothered to read the article that I posted in 2009, Mr Mohana Rao, the Director of GTRE told me that the indigenous Kaveri, which had a maximum thrust of 65 KN at full reheat, would never be able to power the LCA for two reasons: firstly, the LCA had turned out heavier than expected; secondly, in the words of Mr Rao, “The Kaveri turned out 15% heavier than we planned. From the planned 1100 kg, its final weight has gone up to 1265 kg.”
“We need more thrust without increasing the size of the engine”, Mr Mohana Rao told me in Sept 2009. “That means getting better technologies from a more experienced foreign partner. We have chosen (French aero-engine major) Snecma. The Defence Ministry has approved the tie-up.”
That notwithstanding, this is only the end of a chapter, not of the book. GTRE has managed to develop, almost entirely indigenously, an engine that can develop 65 KN of power, at a cost of Rs 3000 crores. Now, Snecma is going to show them what they need to do to take that up to the 90-100 KN level.
We wish GTRE all the best.