Thursday, June 13, 2024

India’s AMCA Fighter Jet Project Faces Engine Development Hurdles Amid Quest For Advanced Propulsion Technology

By Staff Correspondent

India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project is set to propel the country into the exclusive group of nations with super-cruise and stealth aircraft capabilities. This ambitious indigenous military project has been prioritised by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), with plans to co-develop fighter jet engines in India with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as France’s Safran, the US’s GE Aerospace and the UK’s Rolls Royce.

Despite this promising development, concerns have been raised over the engine development roadmap for Indian fighter jets. The AMCA project demands highly complex engine technologies that remain at the heart of its ambitious goals. While a budget of INR 15,000 crore has been allocated for the development of the prototype, it is still underutilized.

The project aims to locally develop a new engine for the AMCA Mark 2, expected to go into production in 2035, with 110kN Class thrust to meet the requirement of super-cruise capability. This will involve advanced technologies such as engine-airframe integration, advanced materials, material-processing techniques, turbo-machine technology, combustion technology, and vastly improved utilisation of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in engine design procedures. The co-development for the aero engine must embrace the concept of smart engines based on next-generation clean sheet technology.

Safran, one of the OEMs involved, is in talks with the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) to scale up the M88 engine, which could generate a thrust of 125 kN. Safran is also working on engine development as a part of the 6th generation fighter jet program called Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program aimed to develop a sixth-generation fighter jet for Europe. The co-development must target the AMCA-MK 1 version to have a greater efficiency and cost advantage, and Safran is marked as the most viable option for AMCA-2 as per the aviation expert.

GE Aerospace’s F414-GE-400, another OEM involved, delivers 35% more thrust than its predecessor and powers Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18 G Growler electronic attack aircraft. The joint development for the aero engine must embrace the concept of smart engines based on next-generation clean sheet technology. While this is a daring undertaking, it presents opportunities for India and aero-engine manufacturers to design and develop advanced fundamentals for the AMCA and other variants.


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