Limited Combat Aircraft

I didn't make up that name. It's a name a whole bunch of folks at Vayu Bhawan are calling the LCA Tejas now. As the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) crunches numbers on the hot weather trials recently concluded over Nagpur, the Tejas engine drama is rapidly assuming farcical proportions. A section of the air force has begun building a proper case for one among either the Eurojet EJ200 or the General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans. If the connection hasn't stood up and smacked you in the face already, here it is: both of these engines currently power contenders in the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition -- the EADS Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet respectively.

With the Kaveri turbofan firmly on the backburner, such as it is, both Eurojet and General Electric have made presentations to the ADA. But the ADA and HAL are both steeply skeptical about claims from both engine houses that housing either the EJ200 or F414 would imply only minor modifications to the airframe. Both EADS and Boeing too have incidentally jumped at the chance to informally plug the makers of the engines that push their planes.

The logic is undeniable. A single engine type powering lots and lots of follow-on LCAs and the 126 MMRCA jets would be a proposition too attractive for anyone to ignore. This appears to be a good part of the logic that's driving interest in a full-up foreign engine for the any Tejas fighters beyond the first 40. The first 40 will be stuck with their F404-IN20s. The other option is to get either Snecma or NPO Saturn to stick their fingers into GTRE and bail out, at considerable expense, the floundering Kaveri. Whichever way it goes, one hopes a decision is taken soon. The LCA's goalposts are around the corner.

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