Now, A Third Indigenous UAV Turbofan Effort

India's HAL has begun scouting for a technology partner for it recently revealed all-new 20kN turbofan engine programme aimed at powering UAV/UCAVs, military trainers, transports and light utility aircraft. The yet unnamed project under HAL's Engine Test Bed Research & Development Centre (ETBRDC) in Bangalore is now the third Indian effort to build turbofan powerplants for unmanned aircraft.

The two existing efforts are the GTRE  small turbofan concept Laghu Shakti (the same as this one, for which GTRE has a tie-up with Russia's NPO Saturn?), and a spin-off modification of the Kaveri turbofan that we now know will power India's AURA/IUSAV stealth UCAV.

There's a bit of overlap that needs sorting out though. In 2007, HAL had revealed that it was developing a "twin spool turbofan engine to power a cruise missile under design". It had gone on to say that  that "ETBRDC will jointly develop this engine with NAL and GTRE. The engine is small; the technology involved is as complex as any bigger engine. Since the  usage is for missile application, no external help can be sought and the engine has to be wholly indigenous. This is a challenging task and ETBRDC is confident that it can meet the challenge." (Was HAL talking about the Laghu Shakti? Possibly. The new 20kN engine effort was only announced in February this year.)

So there it is, tentatively: the GTRE-HAL-NAL Laghu Shakti for the Nirbhay cruise missile and unmanned applications, a modified spin-off version of the Kaveri engine, and HAL's new ab initio turbofan proposal.

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