Centre shortlists foreign firms for aircraft engine production
Statesman News Service
BANGALORE, Sept. 1: The Union government has short listed two foreign companies, Snecma and Saturn, for joint design and production of the controversial Kaveri engine for the Light Combat Aircraft .The proposed joint venture is expected to be set up in association with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The government hopes to finalise the joint venture partner after evaluating the proposals sent by Snecma and Saturn before the end of the year. The target date for the first engine test has been fixed four years from the date of signing the contract. The selected partner would be required to pump in his part of the money by way of components though the exact quantum has not yet been worked out.
According to Dr D Banerjee, chief controller, DRDO, about 300 such engines are expected to be designed and produced under the proposed joint venture, to be set up in the country.
While Snecma is the subsidiary of the Safran group of France, NPO Saturn is a Russian company. Even though the two are competing with partner HAL to design and manufacture the Kaveri engine, they have also joined hands abroad in other projects.
The indigenous engine was originally planned to fly the LCA which is under various stages of testing and currently uses a GE engine. A decade long attempt to develop the engine has proved abortive so far, even though several crores of rupees and man hours have gone into it.
The government, particularly the DRDO has been receiving a lot of flak for the delay and the inability to get the indigenous engine going. Consequently, it is now moving fast to finalise an agreement with one of the two interested parties with hopes of signing it by December this year.
Dr Banerjee said that both Snecma and Saturn were reputed companies and had offered similar solutions to match the requirements for the development and designing of the engine.
Hopefully, he said, the technical evaluations would be over next month with the negotiations starting after that. The way the contract is being figured, the engine dimensions would have to match the fuselage.
The selected joint venture partner, he said, would have to transfer the design knowledge to the country and not merely the manufacturing process. More so as possibilities of upgrades could not be ruled out.
Similarly, technology transfer of components brought by the selected joint venture partner would be part of the arrangement.
Responding to queries, he said that the Indian market was extremely lucrative for foreign players which is why Snecma and Saturn were very keen to join hands with Indian firms. Both perceive a growing market in India to match their capabilities and expertise.