NEW DELHI: It was a deal that been finalised already. On Thursday, GE Aerospace formally announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to jointly produce GE's advanced F414 aircraft engines in India.
Coming amidst Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official state visit to the United States, GE Aerospace was quick to hail it as a major milestone and a key element in strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries.
GE Aerospace in its official statement said, "The agreement includes the potential joint production of GE Aerospace's F414 engines in India, and GE Aerospace continues to work with the US government to receive the necessary export authorization for this."
The deal will require the final approval from the US Congress, but that is expected to sail through.
While the advanced GE-F414 engines are to be fitted in the Tejas Light Combat Mk2 aricraft, the work on future fighters including the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) and the twin-engine deck-based fighters is also proceeding. Besides the Tejas LCA Mk2, three other jets have the GE-F414 engines - the Super Hornets, Growlers and Gripens.
Ravi Gupta, a former DRDO scientist, had underlined the importance of the deal to The New Indian Express, noting "To date the US has not given such high-end technology to anyone."
"To make the deal a success it should be binding on the US that it would not pull out of it in between and the transfer of technology should be in totality," he had observed.
"This is a historic agreement made possible by our longstanding partnership with India and HAL," said H Lawrence Culp Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GE and CEO of GE Aerospace.
India has been using the GE Aerospace's F404, which are lighter than the GE 414 engines, to power its indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas Mk1 and Mk 1A.
India has lagged in engine-related technology and with time such tech will be sought even more as the Air Force is already down to around 30 combat Squadrons as against a sanctioned strength of 42.
As per GE, it was in 1986, that they began working with the Aeronautical Development Agency and HAL to support the development of India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) with F404 engines. Subsequently, GE Aerospace's F404 and F414 have been part of development and production programs of LCA Mk1 and LCA Mk2 programs.
In total, 75 F404 engines have been delivered and another 99 have been ordered for LCA Mk1A. Eight F414 engines have been delivered as part of an ongoing development program for LCA Mk2.
The latest agreement will advance GE Aerospace's earlier commitment to build 99 engines for the Indian Air Force as part of the LCA Mk2 program, said GE.
They added that the MoU puts the company in a strong position to create a family of products in India "including the F404 engine that currently powers the LCA Mk1 and LCA Mk1A aircraft and GE Aerospace's selection for the prototype development, testing and certification of the AMCA program with our F414-INS6 engine. In addition, GE will continue to collaborate with Indian government on the AMCA Mk2 engine program."
GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and systems for commercial and military aircraft with a global service network to support these offerings. GE Aerospace and its joint ventures have an installed base of more than 40000 commercial and 26000 military aircraft engines.