Chief of DRDO Dr. Samir V Kamat recently refused to provide a timeline for production plans for the country's 5th jet fighter programme AMCA, citing little or no progress in plans to jointly develop a new 110-120kN class of engine for the programme despite repeated assurances from the government to invest more money in such programme.
Group of Distinguished scientists and prominent academics from India's aerospace colleges have collectively bemoaned the Indian government's failure to establish basic ground testing facilities in the country.
The group, which was recently hosted by Defence PSUs, urged the government to invest in research and development in order to build an eco-system for manufacturing jet engines in the country, or to at least provide basic facilities such as a High Altitude Engine Test Facility and a Trisonic Wind Tunnel Facility.
The Kaveri programme is still reliant on Russian and French facilities to test the engine, which necessitates the transportation of expensive equipment along with the engines, adding to the program's costs despite the fact that establishing such facilities could serve the country for the next 50-70 years.
DRDO lab GTRE requested a flying testbed for the engine programme nearly two decades ago, but has yet to receive one. It is currently planning another trip to Russia for further trials of the Dry Kaveri engine, which is being developed for the Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle.
Foreign OEMs that want to locally manufacture jet engines in India for Indian fighter jet programme prefer to do so through local subsidiaries where the technology remains with them even if the engines contain a high proportion of local content.
The group also stated that many companies offering technology to India do not want state-owned defence PSUs to be part of the joint venture and prefer to manufacture only 25-30% of the cost value in the country through private companies, limiting these companies to forging some engine parts.
The Indian government must invest nearly 15000 crores in the development of a new engine that will free India from foreign dependence, as well as another 5000-7000 crores to establish facilities such as ground testing and a production eco system that will keep nearly 2 lac crores in the country over the next 40-50 years.