The Indian Prime Minister’s agenda is anticipated to be dominated by a large defence agreement during the current official State Visit to the US. The agreement centres on the partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and American manufacturing giant General Electric (GE) Aerospace for the joint production of fighter jet engines in India.
GS Paper 2 – Bilateral Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In terms of boosting domestic aerospace capabilities and promoting high-tech collaboration, discuss the implications of the India-US defence agreement for the joint manufacturing of fighter jet engines. (150 words)
Information on the Deal:
- Technology Sharing: The agreement enables GE Aerospace and HAL to jointly develop the GE-F414 jet engines that will power the domestic Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk-II.
- Unprecedented Technology Transfer: According to reports, the US has consented to transfer to India roughly 80% of the value of the technology, which would be a record-breaking level of technology transfer.
Need of this Deal
India has made tremendous advancements in a number of space and defence programmes and has created its own fighter plane, the LCA Tejas, which is needed for the deal. The nation has had difficulty creating the right engines to power these aircraft, though.
India’s pursuit of indigenous aero-engines
- India’s pursuit of indigenous aero-engines started in the 1960s with the HF-24 Marut fighter jet, which had limits since it lacked a suitable engine. Historical Efforts: India’s pursuit of indigenous aero-engines has a long history.
- The Kaveri Programme: Launched in 1986, the Kaveri programme sought to create a homegrown military gas turbine engine for the LCA project. It cost a lot of money, yet it was unable to achieve the required technical standards.
- Interim Measure: India chose American GE-F404 engines for the LCA Tejas Mark-1 as a temporary fix.
- F414 Engine Selection: In 2010, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) decided to power the Tejas Mark-2 with the more potent F414 engines. The deal, however, ran into problems with US domestic legislation and regulatory issues.
The following factors contributed to the recent agreement:
- Strengthening the US-India defence relationship: In 2016, the US recognised India as a significant defence partner, which made it easier to share essential military hardware and technology.
- Partnerships in strategic technologies The GE-HAL agreement was brought to light during the inaugural meeting of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), which introduced a new framework to improve strategic technological alliances.
Characteristics and Importance of the F414 Engine:
- Advanced Technology: To satisfy India’s defence needs, the F414 engine contains a fully digital electronic system called Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). It also has bespoke safety measures.
- International Cooperation: The F414 engines are used in cutting-edge combat aircraft all over the world, such as the Saab JAS 39 Gripen and the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet.
- India’s Aerospace Milestone: After the agreement is signed, India will join the US, Russia, France, and the UK as the fifth nation in the world to manufacture jet engines.
- Importance for India: The agreement is strategically significant for India in terms of improving technological capabilities, opposing China’s influence, and replacing outdated Russian fighters with domestically made ones.
The India-US defence agreement for the production of fighter jet engines represents an important development in domestic aerospace capabilities. It has the potential to change India’s defence industrial sector, improve military prowess, and promote high-tech collaboration in the face of shifting global dynamics. Additionally, it provides an alternative to India’s conventional reliance on Russian equipment and supports the nation’s objective of gaining defence self-sufficiency.