OneIndia Exclusive: DRDO to abandon indigenous fighter jet engine Kaveri project
Bengaluru, Nov 18: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to wind up the Kaveri engine (GTX-35VS ) programme, signaling an end to a desi dream of equipping its own fighter jet with a home-grown power plant.
Sources in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to OneIndia on Tuesday that the DRDO has already moved a file recently seeking the closure of the ambitious engine development project undertaken by Bengaluru-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE).
The proposal now needs to get the approval of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and finally the clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) - a process expected to take at least a year. The Kaveri project, which began in the mid-80s, was aimed at powering the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
GTRE has spent so far Rs 2,106 crore on the project so far and could only fly the engine for 73 hours on the IL-76 Flying Test Bed (FTB) in Russia. The delay in the project saw DRDO choosing the GE 404 engine for Tejas Mk-1 and GE 414 for Tejas Mk-II.
GTRE gets additional funds
Sources said that the DRDO has sanctioned Rs 300 crore for GTRE to take up future projects. "The lab is gearing up to take up some futuristic projects and the sanctions have been already given. Another additional sanction of Rs 700 crore is on its way to help realize these gen-next technologies," an official said.
Sources confirm that a separate proposal of Rs 2,600 crore to develop engines for an ‘ambitious project' is under consideration now. The lab has been given another Rs 70 crore for a strategic programme.
Part of DRDO's bold decision, confirms DG
Refusing to divulge the finer details, Dr K Tamilmani, Director-General (Aero), DRDO, confirmed to OneIndia that the Kaveri project will be scrapped. "Yes. These are part of the bold stand being taken by DRDO. Whereever we have found bottlenecks for long time, with no realistic solutions, it's better to move on. It is an honest stand we are taking," Tamilmani said.
When asked whether the decision was a fall out of the recent remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking DRDO to come out of the delay trap, the senior official refused to make a direct comment. "If you are fit to run only for 50 km, why attempt 100 km? DRDO has realized its mistakes of the past and we have no hesitation in taking some bold steps," he said.
Sources said that the MoF has sought some clarifications from DRDO on the Kaveri project, before the matter could finally reach the CCS.
Years of hard work won't go waste: GTRE Director
Dr C P Ramanarayanan, Director, GTRE, said that the DRDO decision might not be final. Leading a team of 900-plus staff at GTRE, Dr Ramanarayanan is now left with the task of inspiring the team to launch future projects.
"This is not the end of the road. We have identified some 12 core areas of technologies and various teams are already at it. Years of hard work put in by the team won't go waste either," Dr Ramanarayanan, a torpedo specialist, told OneIndia.
He said world over not many countries have progressed ahead in making engines. "We have made a good start and despite the delays, proved our capabilities to our best of abilities. The lessons learnt will not go down the drain. India must become self sufficient in making aero engines and our efforts will continue," he added.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)