US may allow GE to make jet engines in India

Jake Sullivan

The U.S. is considering an application received from engine manufacturer General Electric (GE) to jointly produce jet engines for fighter aircraft produced indigenously by India. This includes the GE-414 engines selected by India to power the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk2 and the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), both under development.

It is pertinent to note that an earlier effort at co-developing a jet engine under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) has failed to take off owing to U.S. domestic legislation following which the Joint Working Group on it was wound up.

“In the field of defence manufacturing, the two sides agreed to focus on joint production of key items of mutual interest. The U.S. committed to expeditious review of the licence application submitted by General Electric to produce jet engines in India for the indigenously manufactured LCA. A new Innovation bridge will be created to connect defence start-ups on both sides,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement issued on the visit of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to the U.S. He co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) along with his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan.

“The United States commits to an expeditious review of this application,” said a fact sheet issued by the White House on “U.S.-India elevate strategic partnership with the initiative on iCET.”

The fact sheet outlined a new bilateral defence industrial cooperation roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation between both countries for joint development and production, with an initial focus on exploring projects related to jet engines, munition-related technologies, and other systems.

Development of a fighter engine is among the top priorities for India and is considering three global engine makers — General Electric of the U.S., Rolls Royce of the U.K. and Safran of France — for joint collaboration to develop 110KN engine. The LCA is powered by the GE-F404 engine while the LCA-Mk2 and AMCA in future will be envisaged to be powered by the more powerful GE-F414 engines.

Other global engine manufacturers Safran of France and Rolls Royce of the U.K. have also submitted detailed proposals for co-developing a jet engine.

An earlier effort to develop a jet engine indigenously under the Kaveri programme was shelved after it ran for over 30 years with an expenditure of ₹2,035.56 crore which saw the development of nine full prototype engines and four core engines. The Kaveri project was sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1989.

Mr. Doval is on a three-day visit to the U.S. from January 30 to February 1. The initiative on iCET was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joseph Biden during their meeting in Tokyo in May 2022.

“iCET aims to position the two countries as trusted technology partners by building technology value chains and support the co-development and co-production of items,” the MEA statement said. It also aims to address regulatory restrictions, export controls and mobility barriers through a standing mechanism and the U.S. side also assured support to ease export barriers to India in a few critical areas, including through efforts towards legislative changes, it stated.

The two sides also agreed on several initiatives in the areas of quantum technologies, semiconductors, space and next-gen telecommunications. Both sides established a quantum coordination mechanism with participation from industry and academia.

In the field of semiconductors, the U.S. supported the development of a fabrication ecosystem in India, and encouraged joint ventures and partnerships for mature technology nodes and advanced packaging, the statement said. In this regard, it was agreed to constitute a task force involving India’s Semiconductor Mission, India Electronics Semiconductor Association (IESA) and the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) to develop a “readiness assessment” to identify near-term opportunities and facilitate longer term development of semiconductor ecosystems.

In the space domain, the two sides agreed that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on human space flight opportunities, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project and STEM talent exchanges. “In next generation telecommunications, given India’s cost-competitiveness and scale, both sides agreed to launch a public-private dialogue covering 5G/6G and ORAN using trusted sources,” the statement said.

During the iCET launch, a new implementation arrangement between the Department of Science and Technology of India and the National Science Foundation of the U.S. was also signed to expand joint research in CET.

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