BANGALORE: India’s attempts to be self-reliant in aeronautics is only possible if an autonomous body is formed to design, develop, test and produce aero engines.
Batting for such an initiative is K Tamilmani, Chief Executive, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) - a DRDO facility in Bangalore.
Speaking to Express, he said that India can claim to be an aerospace nation only through an amalgamation of the competence available in private and government sectors. “Today, rough estimates say that 4,000 engines are needed for Advanced Light Helicopters and 500 engines for Intermediate Jet Trainers. These are low-thrust engines of 25 KN (Kilo Newtons). For engines we need material technologies which are not critical and can be internally outsourced. You need engines for 180 Light Combat Helicopters, 187 Light Utility Helicopters and many more. The marriage between R&D and the industry to meet the requirements is not happening,” Tamilmani said.
Sighting that the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) has around 1000 technical people with expertise and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL) Engine Division around 400-plus engineers, Tamilmani felt that their strengths need to be shared.
“We have demonstrated our might by developing jet fuels starters which starts the engine. We have also developed pilotless target aircraft (PTA) engine for Lakshya. There are five engine test-beds with GTRE, while the Engine Division too has got the same facility. If the two teams are put together, then we will have doable targets,” he said.
Justifying his views, the airworthiness expert said that with every engine that is imported, India will have to depend upon others for its maintenance and overhaul support.
“We have now L&T, Godrej, MTR (Hyderabad) and other private companies supporting India’s missile (including BrahMos) and Indian Space Research Organisation programmes. If we start the process of unifying our expertise, we can reduce our dependency on others,” Tamilmani said.
He said India can never declare self-reliance in aeronautics without having state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, quality assurance and quality production of international standards.
“We have not integrated our R&D and appropriate man power is not getting trained for induction. Some of the futuristic cruise missiles also requires engines. India has the capacity, teams, technology, demand and industry. We need to integrate them to be in the race,” Tamilmani said.