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By Bulbul Singh

30 Jan 13. India will henceforth use the homegrown Kaveri engine, still
in development stage to power the Unmanned Combat Vehicle(UCV), it is building at Indian defence laboratories of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). In addition, it has also been decided to hunt for global partners to tune the Kaveri engine to fly the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), for which it was initially designed. The Kaveri engine under development since 1989 has failed to bed developed to fly the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as there are a number of technical problems, especially relating to the required thrust of the engine.

The Kaveri engine is being developed by the Bangalore based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), a laboratory of DRDO andover $400 million has been spent on the project so far. So far 9 prototypes of Kaveri engines have been developed and the engines have been test flown on Russian made IL-76 aircraft .

The Kaveri engine will be now used to power the UCV, another project of DRDO in the development stage.

One of the reasons for the decision to use Kaveri for UCV is that the engine in its current state is generating less than the 50 KN of dry thrust which is inadequate to fly a LCA but adequate to fly a UCV.

India’s UCV is being developed by Bangalore based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a laboratory of DRDO under a project titled AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft). Weighing 10 tones it will be able to carry bombs and used as an unmanned Combat Aerial vehicle.

On completion the UCV will become one of the few countries to be able to develop an unmanned stealth bomber aircraft which can be used for surveillance and kill roles.

The homemade UCV is still on the drawing room stage and the flight tests are to begin by 2015 and the aircraft is expected to be inducted in the Indian defence forces by 2020. The unmanned stealth aircraft will have new generation onboard sensors to help detect targets,

While DRDO claims that the onboard sensors will also be developed at home sources say help from overseas countries is also being sought on several technologies including the onboard sensors.

The LCA itself is over 15 years behind scheduled and is currently powered by General Electric’s F 404 engine and the mark-2 model will also be flown by GE 414, a higher thrust engine. The project is already delayed by over 15 years and the MOD wants the LCA production to be quickened after the induction of LCA-Mark-1 model, in 2015. .

The Indian Air Force (IAF) already has placed an order for 20 LCA Mark-1 aircraft after which another 20 LCA-Mark-1 are to be ordered. However, IAF ultimately wants around 124 Mark-2 LCA the first of which to be inducted in 2017-18.

It is still not certain if the Kaveri engine will finally be used to fly the LCA as the search in the overseas market for partners could take another one to two years. If formally scrapped, the LCA would generate a demand of over 200 engines.

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