India's Kaveri Engine - Good For Something?

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India's indigenously developed Kaveri engine may be unfit to power the country's Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - itself not a stellar performer - but it has found a new home.

On Dec 10, in written reply to a parliamentary question, defense minister AK Anthony says a derivative of the Kaveri can power India's Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV), planned to enter service by 2020.

Graphic: DRDO

According to the Business Standard, India has no choice but to use a dry (unreheated) version of the Kaveri in the USAV because the international Missile Technology Control Regime bars the export of engines for unmanned aircraft with ranges more than 300km.

Under development by India's Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), the Kaveri's afterburning thrust is less than designed and well short of that needed to power the overweight LCA, but its dry (unreheated) thrust is adequate to power the under-10-tonne USAV, the report says.

The Business Standard says tests at Russia's Gromov Flight Research Institute, mounted on an Il-76 flying testbed, showed the Kaveri's afterburning thrust is 15,800lb, versus the planned 18,200lb. But dry thrust was almost 11,100lb, close to the planned 11,500lb.

Photo: Wikipedia

The Kaveri has been under development at the GTRE since March 1989. Anthony, in his written reply, says 2,200hr of ground and altitude testing have been completed on nine Kaveri prototype engines plus four Kabini core prototypes. In Russia, the engine was flown to Mach 0.7 and almost 40,000ft over 27 flights totalling 57hr.

Development was scheduled to be completed in  December 1996 at a projected cost of  $69.5 million (Rs.382.81 Crore). But because of technical failures and delays, the program was extended and its cost revised to $515 million, of which $362 million has been spent so far, says Anthony.

Because of the Kaveri's failure, the Tejas Mk1 is powered by an imported 19,000lb-thrust GE F404-IN20. But the aircraft is overweight and underpowered, so an enlarged Mk2 version is planned powered by a 22,000lb-thrust GE F414-INS6.

India's USAV, meanwhile, looks a lot like Europe's Dassault-led Neuron unmanned combat-aircraft technology demonstrator (below), which made its first flight in France in early December. The Neuron demonstrator is powered by a 9,000lb-thrust Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour.


Photo: Dassault

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