India is developing its fifth-gen fighter jet, codenamed Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). With the induction of the stealth fighter slated for 2035 and the decision on the engine yet to be taken, several foreign manufacturers have offered to power the AMCA aircraft.
To that end, a delegation from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) met the representatives from the UK-based Rolls Royce last week to discuss the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) Engine, Financial Express reported. The DRDO officials were visiting the Rolls Royce plant in the UK.
The British company currently manufacturing engines for sixth-generation fighters like British Tempest and Japan’s F-X is eager to collaborate with India for its fifth-generation engine needs.
After a fruitful meeting between the two sides, the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom tweeted: “An instructive and impressive day visit to Rolls Royce facilities near; give possibilities to build on existing and historical partnerships in cutting-edge areas of technology.” Rolls Royce has reportedly offered a Euro jet EJ200 version with a thrust of 110-120 kN.
If the talks between the two go through, a joint venture will be established between Rolls Royce and DRDO. Under the JV, the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) for the High Thrust Low bypass engine (110kN+) will be retained by India, according to Kishore Jayaraman, Head of Rolls Royce India and South Asia.
The French company Safran has also submitted a proposal to the Indian government to co-develop with DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) a new state-of-the-art 110-kilo Newton thrust engine for India’s AMCA fighter project.
Like its European rival Rolls Royce, Safran also has skin in the game. It is one of the main contributors to the 36 Rafales that India acquired in 2016. The SAFRAN-DRDO joint venture is planned with complete ToT and is based on the M88 engine base type.
Besides French and British companies, American engine major General Electric (GE) has also entered the game. Earlier this year, it had offered to develop the jet engine for India’s under-development AMCA aircraft, three years after suspending joint development of aircraft engines under the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTII) in October 2019.
The American corporation GE is the supplier of F404IN20 engines for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk-1. The company’s F414-INS6 engines were also selected to power the MK-2 version of the LCA, and the company’s CFM56 engines power the Indian Navy’s P-8I. The CT7-8 engines power the Indian Air Force’s VVIP squadron of AW101.
Procuring advanced and cutting-edge technology from foreign partners will allow India to wield formidable aircraft. However, it does not automatically translate to independent manufacturing capability and would inadvertently limit the export of the AMCA to other countries.
Indian AMCA is envisioned as a twin-engine stealth aircraft with an internal weapons bay and diverter-less supersonic intake, which has been produced for the first time and for which the design is now complete.
It will be a 25-ton aircraft with an internal payload of 1,500 kilograms and an external payload of 5,500 kilograms in addition to 6,500 kilograms of internal fuel. The AMCA is scheduled to make its first flight in 2024-25, with series production starting in 2030.