The pursuit of indigenous fighter jet engine technology remains a challenge, with only a few nations excelling in this domain, notably the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. However, Russia's engine technology lags behind the advancements made in the Western world, and China relies on modifying and enhancing Russian engines, leading to foreign dependencies.
India, in its determined quest for engine excellence, embarked on the development of the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) Kaveri engine. The primary objective was to equip the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, initially envisioned as a replacement for the Mig-21 and Mig-27 aircraft.
While the Kaveri engine demonstrated potential, it fell short of meeting the revised thrust requirements of the LCA Tejas, leading to a discontinuation of its association with the program.
Undeterred by this setback, the GTRE recognized the promise of the Kaveri engine beyond its initial application. The engine's capabilities were acknowledged, and it was considered a potential option for future fighter jets.
To further advance indigenous jet engine technology, the GTRE presented an innovative proposal to convert two Su-30MKI fighter jets into flying test beds for future indigenous engines. This approach involves using one imported engine and one indigenous engine in a twin-engine configuration, facilitating rigorous testing and evaluation, as well as the certification of engine components during flight evaluations.
The process of testing and certifying a fighter jet engine unfolds through five meticulously planned stages. It begins with ground testing, followed by High Altitude Testing (HAT Facility), Flying Test Bed Testing using a passenger aircraft, Supersonic Testing with an operational fighter jet, and finally, the certification stage.
Currently, the GTRE Kaveri engine has completed the first three stages of testing, but the absence of a supersonic test bed has temporarily hindered its progress. Nevertheless, the renewed commitment from the GTRE and the shift towards indigenous jet engine development offer hope for future advancements.
In the realm of fighter jet engine technology, engine makers are recognizing the potential for collaboration with India. They are aware that seizing this opportunity could contribute to India's goal of developing its own indigenous jet engine, provided the necessary funds are allocated appropriately.
The next 7.5 years represent a critical period for India's defense sector.
Decisions and actions taken during this timeframe will significantly shape the country's defense capabilities and its standing on the global stage. The commitment to indigenous engine development demonstrates India's determination to enhance its technological prowess and reduce foreign dependencies, thereby strengthening its position as a key player in the aerospace industry.