There's a lot of buzz over the Tejas Mk-II
engine competition, with a flurry of reports suggesting that the Eurojet EJ200
is positioned to win
the deal, and not close competitor General Electric
with its F-414-400
. The connection
between the Tejas Mk-2 engine and the MMRCA is inevitable, so first, let's get a couple of things out of the way as far as the Mk-2 question is concerned.
Both the F-414 and EJ200 were equally compliant with the qualitative requirements of the Indian Air Force. Second, despite what either of the companies has said, there's a good deal of modification that both engines will require for integration with the Tejas -- both engines are dimensionally different too, with one short and stubby and the other longer and more slender.
Both engine makers promise that they can modify their engines for the Tejas and complete certification in two years or less from the time of contract signing. For example, when I visited Eurojet headquarters
near Munich in January, the company's managing director Hartmut Tenter said, "There will be some changes to the mounting assembly, a different hydraulic pump and an additional generator pack. In addition, engine interfaces might' need changes depending on how the LCA is configured. But we are confident of having a fully certified engine ready in less than two years."
Both engine houses have been known to claim that the Tejas airframe will require no airframe changes for the new engine. Untrue. The Indian Air Force and HAL have both confirmed that the selection of either of the two engines will mean minor -- but not negligible -- changes to intake architecture, aft fuselage and engine interface structures on the Tejas airframe. How long that
will take is a good question.
According to sources, GE's pitch -- technology and offsets aside -- has been underscored by the experience of the F-404, variants of which currently power the Tejas Mk-1. The company has also thought of the F-414 for the Tejas well before
it was officially decided that a new engine would power the Mk-2. Eurojet, on the other hand, has pitched the EJ200 with the very tempting notion of a dedicated EJ200 global production line in India, along with true qualitative technology transfer, that will include single crystal technology to HAL and GTRE.
But none of this may actually matter now, since both engines have performed well and met all or at least most requirements, and have an approximately equal level of compliance.