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One of India’s closest allies, France, made an offer well in advance of the ground-breaking GE-F414 engine contract with the US, according to persons with knowledge of the situation on Saturday. This was done in advance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day trip to Paris.

The government of Emmanuel Macron has given the defence industry giant Safran the go-ahead to jointly design, develop, test, manufacture, and finally certify an engine that will power both the twin-engine Advanced Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the twin-engine deck-based fighter for Indian aircraft carriers.

Although the government is keeping quiet about the contract, reliable sources have stated that the French company Safran’s 100% technology transfer offer is exempt from US International Trade in Arms Regulation (ITAR) and that the proposed 110 kilonewton engine will be entirely “Made in India”.

On the eve of the just finished 2023 Paris Air Show, DRDO Director Dr. Samir V. Kamat paid a special visit to the Safran engine production and the R&D facility close to Paris. The engine idea has been the subject of discussions with France under the direction of the NSA and the defence minister.

PM Narendra Modi will fly into Paris in the late afternoon of July 13 in order to attend the Bastille Day festivities the next day. On July 13, he is anticipated to speak with President Macron in private. On July 14, a Rafale fighter from the Indian Air Force will take part in the Bastille Day fly-past.

The French solution includes an entirely new engine, brand-new components, a new architectural design, stealth compliance with comprehensive supply chains, and India-based auxiliary manufacturing. The cost of the jet engine contract will be extremely competitive per engine in US dollars, but it will take 10 years from the date of signing for the entire process to be completed, from designing to certifying the constructed engine. A centre of excellence in gas turbine technology with comprehensive design and metallurgical precision software tools will also be established by Safran in India as part of the offer.

The Kaveri jet engine has been out of reach for the DRDO since 1996 because of problems with metallurgical equipment, rotating components, single crystal blade technology, and the high-pressure engine core. The French offer coincides with Safran’s plans to build a facility in Hyderabad to maintain, repair, and overhaul (MRO) LEAP engines for the A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft. MRO for the M-88 engine, which powers the Rafale fighter, is also being constructed.

800 LEAP engines are needed by Air India alone to power its sizable order of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. As far as is known, the Safran offer includes the entire hot portion of the engine, including the rotating components, single crystal blade technology, and high-pressure compressor, which is essential.

The French offer, which includes partnerships with Indian defence PSUs and local private players, will produce higher thrust engines as required by the AMCA or TEDBF being developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the DRDO. The M-88 engine of the current Rafale fighter with the IAF has a thrust of 75-80 kilo newtons. The 125 KN engine for the French next-generation fighter is already being developed by Safran. The HAL helicopters are powered by Safran engines, and it is said that the two firms have agreed to work together to create the engine for the Indian multi-role helicopters.

At its own facilities in India and auxiliary operations, such as a Lucknow-based business that is producing titanium alloy parts for the LEAP and Rafale engines, Safran has also developed sourcing in India for engine parts for LEAP and M-88.

The French assert that the offer is the most competitive by international standards and that the advantage is that it will generate a 360-degree capability and ownership of the full engine, despite the fact that the investment in the entire process from design to flight comprises several billion euros.


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