Kaveri Engine cutout at Aero India 2009
Indigenous development of Kaveri Engine to power the Tejas aircraft was sanctioned on March 30, 1989 with a PDC of December 31, 1996. The engine remains under development and has been dropped as a prospective power plant for the LCA. It is now being considered for use on the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
Indigenous development of Kaveri Engine by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment(GTRE) to power the Tejas aircraft was sanctioned on March 30, 1989 at a cost of Rs 382.81 crore with a PDC of December 31, 1996.
Later, the GTRE secured an extension till March 2000, but once again failed to meet the revised deadline and was given time till December 2004.
The 2004 deadline was extended to December 2009 but GTRE failed to complete the project and opted for a JV with a foreign firm.
The engine remains under development and has been dropped as a prospectivepower plant for the LCA. It is now being considered for use on the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2010-11 report said that Rs 1,892 crores had been spent over two decades on the project, but the country ended up buying General Electric (GE) engines at a cost of Rs 883 crore to power the LCAs.
The project had overshot its budget by 642 per cent without any perceptible results.
The project underwent five revisions of cost, and saw a 1,013 per cent rise in its foreign exchange element since inception.
The CAG report chided Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) for having finally opted for a joint venture (JV) with a foreign partner, when the purpose of the Kaveri project was to indigenously develop a high performance jet engine for use on fighters.
Over the years the project has only met two out of the six milestones prescribed even after delaying the project for 12 years, it regrets.
GTRE has already spent Rs 200 crores ($411 million) developing the engine since 1989, but the power plant is still overweight.
As in January 2011, the engine was developing 70-75 KN thrust against the IAF requirement of 93-100 KN.
A DRDO official told the press in August 2011:
"Nine prototypes of Kaveri engine and four prototypes of Kaveri Core (Kabini) engines have been developed with over 2,000 hours of testing...the engine is proven with almost 80 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust now."
The Kaveri engine is currently in the final stages of its certification.
About 1880 hrs on engine test has been completed on various prototypes of Kaveri Engine. A total of eight Kaveri Engines and four core engines have been manufactured, assembled and tested. High Altitude testing on core engine has been completed successfully.
A Kaveri engine (K-9) was flight tested for the first time on November 3, 2010.
According to a DRDO press release dated November 4:
"The indigenously designed and developed Kaveri Engine was successfully flight tested by DRDO yesterday during the Flying Test Bed (FTB) Trials at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), Moscow, Russia. The engine was tested from take-off to landing and flew for a period of over one hour up to at an altitude of 6000m at a speed of 0.6 mach in its maiden flight. The engine control, engine performance and engine health during the flight were found to be excellent. With this test, Kaveri Engine has completed a major milestone of the development program. During the coming months further 50-60 test flights will be carried out to mature the engine in terms of reliability, safety and airworthiness. These trials would pave the way for further flight trials of Kaveri Engine with a fighter aircraft.
An existing IL-76 aircraft was modified as a Flying Test Bed for this trial, with Kaveri engine replacing one of the four engines of the aircraft. The modifications included instrumentation required for trials as well as integration of mechanical, electrical and fuel system. The engine was controlled by the pilot from the cockpit. A number of taxi trials were carried out with Kaveri Engine integrated with the aircraft, before this maiden flight. The engine data was recorded in the aircraft as well as transmitted to ground station by telemetry."
The IL-76 which flew with Kaveri engine at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), in Moscow on November 03, 2010.
A team of 20 scientists from Gas Turbine Research Establishment, DRDO, have been working along with GFRI for these trials. Dr Prahlada, Chief Controller, R&D (Aeronautics & Services Interaction) briefed the Media about the significance of the first flight.
During the coming months, 50-60 test flights will be carried out to mature the engine in terms of reliability, safety and airworthiness.
These trials will pave the way for further flight trials of Kaveri engine with a fighter aircraft.
On May 2, 2011, DRDO announced that it had completed the first phase of flight testing - using a Flying Test Bed (FTB) Il-76 aircraft at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI) in Russia - was successfully completed, DRDO announced on May 2, 2011.
The engine had logged 11 test sorties and 20 flight hours and had tested to a max altitude of 12 km and a max speed of 0.7 Mach.
The tests involved validating engine performance under different operating conditions of the engine.
As on December 21, 2011:
The Kaveri engine had completed the first block of flight testing on the FTB, logging 27 sorties and 55 flight hours.
The Kaveri and Kabini engines had been tested for a total of 2050 hours at ground and altitude conditions for various requirements including performance, operability, endurance, environmental, etc.
The Kaveri engine developed so far is being looked upon as a technology demonstrator. Following flight certification, it is likely to be tested on a LCA to demonstrate its compatibility with the aircraft, but will not be used on production variants of the aircraft.
Instead, GTRE will develop a production version of the Kaveri in collaboration with Snecama of France. The production variant of the engine is referred to as Kaveri K-10. It will be a 9 ton class engine.
In August 2011, a DRDO official told the press that the indigenous Kaveri engine maybe used to power the AURA UCAV currently under development.
According to the official, DRDO has also developed a marine Kaveri engine with 12 MW power output by "designing a free-power turbine to generate shaft power" for propulsion of warships in which the Navy has shown "a lot of interest."
"With Kaveri, we have proven several gas turbine technologies for a variety of applications. Indian Railways is also interested in knowing whether Kaveri can be used for powering trains," said the official.
In 2009, DRDO offered to co-develop and co-produce 90 kN thrust class upgraded Kaveri engine with M/s Snecma, France, within 48 months from the date of project inception.
DRDO and M/s Snecma will be jointly responsible for engine design, development, flight trials and certification in Tejas.
The modified Kaveri engine will match the performance of the F414 and EJ2000 throughout the flight envelope of Tejas.
Minimum changes are required in the airframe to integrate this engine without affecting the weight and configuration of Tejas.
The proposed engine will be based on Snecama's ‘Eco’ engine core.
Snecama, which had earlier indicated that TOT for the core may take 15 years, now believes it can be done in 5 years. It proposes a minimum production run of 250 engines to make the joint venture viable.
The Indian Air Force is inclined towards a proven engine that is already in production and flight worthy for meeting immediate requirement.
Kaveri Engine at DRDO pavilion at Aero India 2011 in Yelahanka, Bengaluru. Photo Copyright © Vijainder K Thakur
The M88 ECO is a development of the M88-2 engine which powers the French Rafale. The M88-2 has a thrust of 50 to 75 kN and full authority digital engine control (FADEC) for carefree handling anywhere in its operating envelope.
M88 ECO is a technology demonstrator now under test, designed to reduce the M88-2’s cost of ownership and increase its thrust to 9 tons (19,800 lb).
On December 14, 2009, Defense Minister Shri AK Antony, told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the proposal on the Kaveri-Snecma engine joint venture for LCA Tejas continues to be under consideration.
In late December 2009, GTRE officials told The Hindu that the government had given the go-ahead to pursue the joint venture option and talks with Snecma “could start early next year.”
The government nod followed a backtracking by the IAF on its opposition to the engine based on the recommendations of a team, headed by Air Vice-Marshal M. Matheswaran. The team, which included officials from the ADA, the IAF and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, submitted a report that stated that an engine developed jointly by Snecma and the GTRE would not meet the IAF’s performance requirements.
The IAF had earlier also sought the delinking of the Kaveri and Tejas project.
In January 2011 a senior MOD official told PTI that the Kaveri engine has been dropped as a prospective power plant for Tejas Mk II. Instead, the engine will now be developed to power the twin engined Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), which is expected to be ready by 2016-17.
The official also confirmed that the tie up with Snecama was in place.
"I think with the JV with Snecma in place now, we would be able to achieve these parameters in near future," the official told PTI.
The GOI told Parliament on February 22, 2011.
"It is proposed to develop production version Kaveri (K10) engine on co-design & co-development basis with M/s Snecma, France. The technical evaluation for this proposal has been completed. Tender Purchase Committee (TPC) with members from DRDO, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Indian Air Force (IAF), Indian Navy (IN) and Integrated Finance (R&D) is negotiating the commercial aspects."
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on November 22, 2011 Defense Minister Shri A.K. Antony told an MP that DRDO "is negotiating with M/s SNECMA, France for co-development and co-production of Kaveri Aero Engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk-II."
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on August 8, 2011 Defense Minister Shri A.K. Antony clarified that DRDO is yet to enter into an agreement with Snecama for developing the Kaveri K10 engine.
"However, DRDO is negotiating with M/s Snecma, France for co-development and co-production of Kaveri aero engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas MK-II. The project proposal will be put up for Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approval after the completion of price negotiation.
"Indian Air Force (IAF) has been consulted at every stage and is part of negotiation. IAF has cleared the Kaveri engine co-development proposal with M/s Snecma, France. The draft engine technical specification has been examined and cleared by IAF. IAF has further suggested that the engine design should have minimal impact on the LCA Tejas airframe for future retrofitment."