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Kaveri engine set for Indian combat plane

Bulgaria to buy eight fighter jets
Sofia, Bulgaria (UPI) Feb 3, 2011 - Bulgaria has approached Western powers over the potential acquisition of fighter jets. Sofia approached the United States, France, Germany and Sweden over the supply of eight new or used fighter jets, Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said in a statement released Wednesday. It added that the financial circumstances of a deal had to be decided after information is sent by the four countries, in 2012, at the earliest. While the statement didn't mention company names, it's clear that the major players -- America's Lockheed Martin and Boeing, European multinational giant European Aeronautic and Space Co., Dassault from France and Sweden's Saab -- are qualified to make the cut.

New planes that could qualify include France's Dassault Rafale, the Saab Gripen from Sweden, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium including EADS, Britain's BAE Systems, and Finmeccanica of Italy. Given the notorious budget issues plaguing Western armed forces, Bulgaria might very well rely on purchasing used jets -- possibly U.S. F-16 or F-18 aircraft, which have a proven track record of performing well on the second-hand market. Prices for new advanced combat aircraft start at around $40 million per plane, with prices for used models considerably lower. Washington as early as 2007 tried to convince Bulgaria to buy used jets, a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks suggests.

The best deal for Bulgaria would be to buy used U.S. fighter jets and not pursue the much more expensive option of buying a Gripen or a Eurofighter, the cable, sent Oct. 29, 2007, by John Beyrle, formerly the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, Britain's Daily Telegraph reports. "The Bulgarians may be eyeing new combat aircraft, and U.S. manufacturers will, of course, be in this hunt," the cable reads. "But cost factors would exhaust the defense budget, and Bulgaria would be hard pressed to perform essential training and maintenance functions on such a squeezed budget." The cable also said Sofia should be discouraged from purchasing Russian fighter jets, "which are currently an obstacle to Bulgaria's transformation to a more operationally and tactically flexible organization as expected by NATO." "A slightly older, perhaps used aircraft of intermediate complexity, would allow Bulgarian pilots to quickly master new systems and immediately become interoperable partners," the cable reads.
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Feb 3, 2011
Senior research officials in India say they are confident the indigenous, and delayed, Kaveri jet engine will power the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

The Kaveri has been under development for around 20 years by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment, a laboratory division of the government's Defense Research and Development Organization in Bangalore, India.

The GTRE has been working with other DRDO labs, academic institutions and industry partners. It also began working with French engine manufacturer Snecma, part of the Safran Group, in early 2008 to improve the Kaveri's performance.

Technical and bureaucratic delays have meant around $455 million has been spent on the engine, expected to be ready by 2017.

The hookup with Snecma has meant a likely boost in thrust that will make it suitable for the AMCA, a DRDO official told the Press Trust of India.

He said the engine has been able to produce 70-75 kilo newtons of thrust. However, Indian air force and other stakeholders are looking for 90-95 KN.

"I think with the joint venture Snecma in place now, we would be able to achieve these parameters in near future," he told PTI.

The 150 twin-engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft are expected to be in service beginning in 2020 and will complement the Tejas, a single-engine Light Combat Aircraft. The AMCA are to replace the air force's aging SEPECAT Jaguar and Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft.

The Kaveri engine began development in 1986 and was designed originally for Tejas that first flew in January 2001. The Indian air force is likely to need 200 single-seat and 20 two-seat trainers. The Indian navy is said to want up to 40 single-seaters to replace its aging fleet of Sea Harrier FRS51 and Harrier T60.

The government's Aeronautical Development Agency, set up in Bangalore in 1984 to oversee development of the Tejas, also is leading on work for the AMCA.

General Electric's GE F404 engine has been powering prototype Tejas aircraft. Late last year the Ministry of Defense said until the Kaveri engine is ready, India will use the upgraded GE F414 engines for the first 100 Tejas aircraft, expected to be in service later this year.

The F414 units are an afterburning turbofan engine developed from the F404 turbofan for use in the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

In 2004, the Kaveri failed high-altitude tests in Russia, ending hopes of installing in it the first Tejas aircraft. But the engine passed a milestone in November when India used an Ilyushin Il-76 transport as a test bed flown at Russia's Gromov Flight Research Institute near Moscow.

The engine was tested from takeoff to landing and flew for more than an hour up to an altitude of 19,700 feet at a speed of Mach 0.6 in its maiden flight, a statement by India's defense ministry said at the time.

The pilot controlled the engine and a number of taxi trials were carried out before the flight. However, ministry didn't issue performance details, such as engine thrust, a problem with the engine in the past.

Up to 60 test flights are envisaged to bring it up to acceptable reliability, safety and airworthiness before putting it into a fighter aircraft.

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