years in the making by now with a sanctioned cost of Rs 2,893 crore,
can power unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) because they “do not
require the kind of higher thrust” needed for the indigenous Tejas LCA
(light combat aircraft).
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, which is enough for our UCAVs (Tejas
requires 90 kN),” said an official.
This comes even as DRDO has now begun preliminary work on developing
stealth UCAVs, under the secretive ‘autonomous unmanned research
aircraft’ programme. This UCAV will weigh less than 15 tonnes, fly at
altitudes of 30,000 feet and fire missiles and bombs with precision, as
earlier reported by TOI.
DRDO has also come up with a modified Kaveri version, by “designing a
free-power turbine to generate shaft power”, for propulsion of warships.
The Navy, as per DRDO, has shown “a lot of interest” in the engine
which has a 12 MW power output.
“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.
DRDO is now also trying to tie up with French company Snecma to jointly develop the “90kN thrust class of upgraded Kaveri engines”
for the future requirements of IAF. But the fact remains that the
Kaveri project’s dismal performance has forced India to ink a $822
million contract for 99 General Electric’s F-414 engines, with an option
to go for another 49 engines at a later stage, to power the Tejas
While the first 20 Tejas will be powered by GE-404 engines, the next six
Mark-II squadrons (16-18 jets in each) will have the new more powerful
GE F-414 engines. Under the LCA project, which itself has been 28 years
in the making with an almost 3,000% jump in overall developmental costs,
IAF hopes to have its first two fully-operational Tejas squadrons based
at the Sulur airbase (Tamil Nadu) by 2015 now.