India has settled on the GE-414 engine to power the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk-2. The Price Negotiating Committee for the Alternate Engine of the LCA Mk-2 issued a statement on Thursday, saying that it had finalized the Comparative Statement of Tenders. “After evaluation and acceptance of the Technical offer provided by both Eurojet and GE Aviation, the commercial quotes were compared in detail and GE Aviation was declared as the lowest bidder,” said the statement.
The statement was issued two days after Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony’s visit to the United State, where he held meetings with US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Admiral Mike Mullen. It also came on a fairly heavy news day, with the country’s complete attention focused on a verdict of the Allahabad High Court on the highly contentious issue of the disputed ownership of a property where a mosque was demolished in 1992, itself alleged to have been been built on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu God Ram.
The Price Negotiating Committee included representatives from the Ministry of Defense, Department of Defense Finance, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy. “Further price negotiations and contract finalization will follow,” said its statement.
Eurojet expressed its disappointment with the decision, saying that while they respect the decision taken by the Price Negotiating Committee, they ‘regret that the Committee has decided against the most capable and latest generation engine on offer for the LCA-Tejas’.
“Together with our consortium partner companies and their respective governments we will carefully study the decision and its implications. We expect further details from Indian authorities and more information about the process leading to the announced selection,” said a Eurojet statement.
India is looking for 99 engines for the Tejas with an option for 100 additional engines.
Earlier reports had indicated the smart money to have been on Eurojet’s EJ-200 engine to win the USD 600 million-contest, which was reported to have offered a lower commercial bid. But sources indicate that the commercial bids of both sides failed to include aspects that would add to the cost of acquisition of the selected engine. In such a scenario, the Price Negotiating Committee had to examine both offers and arrive at a revised conclusion as to their cost, which, presumably, led to the selection of the GE-414 engine.
Eurojet says this decision does not affect its ‘strong commitment to India’ and that it will continue to explore ‘true and trusted partnerships here which will support the development of a strong Indian aerospace and defence industry’.
Sources in the defense aerospace industry in India, however, dismissed speculation that this decision would have a direct impact on the selection of an aircraft for the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contest of the Indian Air Force, saying the MMRCA contest was not at a stage to be affected by this decision. Two of the contestants in the contest, Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Saab’s Gripen are powered by the GE-414 engine, while the Eurofighter runs on two EJ-200 engines.
“Maybe this would make a difference if, all other things being equal, the MMRCA were reduced to a contest between a fighter with the GE-414 engine and one without. But the wide variety of the aircraft in the contest make it unlikely that all other things would indeed be equal,” said one industry source.
“It would depend on the number of engines ultimately ordered, and whether the terms of the deal regarding licensed production, transfer of technology and assembly lines produce sufficient economies of scale. It would also, depend on the future fleet structure plans of the IAF. This would require decision-makers in India to look at the macro picture and take a strategic decision,” he said, declining to be named for this article. “Programs such as these are independent of each other and the DPP (Defense Procurement Procedure) does not cater for this kind of linkage.”
Three other fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, the Russian MiG-35 and Dassault’s Rafale are also in the MMRCA contest.