India may ink a deal with Safran of France to deploy its M88 engine, which powers the Rafale fighter jet, in the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
A deal to this effect is expected during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Delhi on March 10, according to French newspaper LA Tribune.
The report did not make it clear if the M88 engine would be used as the base engine to adapt it for the LCA program or it would be an altogether new development using Safran technology to create a new engine from the ground upwards.
The LCA Tejas, currently in serial manufacturing phase by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is equipped with General Electric F404 IN20 engine having maximum thrust of 9,163 kg (20,200 lb) and a weight of 1,035 kg (2,282 lb).
The idea of a M88 engine for LCA stems from India’s desire to resurrect the Kaveri engine program which was originally started in the 1990s to develop an indigenous engine for India’s only fighter jet program. The Kaveri engine program was abandoned as the development did not meet the requirements of powering an engine for the LCA when it enters production stage.
During the run up to the Rafale deal, there were reports that France had offered to collaborate on the Kaveri engine program as part of the 50% offsets for the Rafale buy.
The Indian Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) agency had awarded General Electric a $105 million contract in February 2004 for the development, engineering and production of 17 F404-GE-IN20 engines to power the aircraft for the prototype and the low-rate initial production stages. Subsequently, there were reports that India would buy over 100 GE 414 engines for the LCA Mark II, which is the next stage upgrade of the current Mark I aircraft.