The imminent agreement between General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to collaborate on jet engine manufacturing in India holds significant importance for several reasons:
Overcoming technology export controls: India's selection of the GE-F414 engine in 2010 for its TEJAS light combat aircraft marked a crucial development in its efforts to domestically produce more powerful jet engines. However, plans for technology transfer faced hurdles due to US export controls.
Revival through iCET: The jet engine deal gained renewed attention following the unveiling of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) by India and the US. As part of efforts to strengthen defense ties, the US committed to expeditiously reviewing the agreement.
Enhanced India-US defense relationship: The deal signifies a significant advancement in the defense relationship between India and the US. Previous initiatives, such as the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, did not meet expectations.
The GE deal, involving technology transfer to India, could mark a decisive shift from past challenges.
Domestic defense industrial base: India's ability to manufacture advanced jet engines is limited, with only a few countries possessing this capability. The jet engine deal will be a significant step forward in India's quest to develop a domestic defense industrial base.
Modernization of fighter-jet fleet: The agreement will contribute to India's efforts to modernize and upgrade its fighter-jet fleet. The GE-F414 engines are expected to power future fighter jets like the TEJAS MK-2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Fighter Aircraft.
The deal will also serve as a crucial test for India's public-sector defense enterprises, including HAL, considering the strategic value and scale of these fighter jets.