Done: The Tejas Mk2 power unit will be manufactured in India

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India’s defense sector is witnessing a significant expansion, as the American aerospace giant, General Electric Aerospace [GEA], signs a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] with the renowned Bangalore-based company, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] on June 22. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This landmark agreement will fuel a remarkable technological collaboration. The GEA will co-produce its state-of-the-art F414 jet engines on Indian soil. These power-packed engines are destined to propel HAL’s Tejas Mk2 fighter jets, a light combat aircraft presently being manufactured for the Indian Air Force.

India’s homegrown marvel, the Tejas fighter jet, crafted by HAL, first soared into the Indian Air Force’s fleet in the warm July of 2016. Back in November 2008, GlobalData’s insightful intelligence shed light on a significant development – India’s Air Force had green-lighted the induction of a whopping 140 Tejas aircraft, enough to bolster seven squadrons. 

Fast forward to the present day, and the Tejas Mk2 is eagerly waiting in the wings. Airforce Technology painted an exciting picture in 2020, revealing the aircraft’s maiden test flight was on the horizon. However, in a recent update, The Hindustan Times has suggested a slight shift in schedule. The grand rollout for the much-anticipated Mk2 variant, it seems, will now commence in 2024.

Photo credit: DVIDS

Did you know that GEA, the original equipment manufacturer of the F414 engine, has been a trusted partner of the US Navy for over three decades? Their powerful F414 engines have been the heartbeat of the US Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet jets for all this time. GEA proudly reports that they have delivered more than 1,600 of these high-performance engines.

India-US defense еcosystem

In a historic move, the US Department of Defense and the Indian Ministry of Defence have unveiled the India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem [Ind-X]. This groundbreaking initiative was announced on June 21 at a catalyst event hosted by the US-India Business Council, coinciding with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile visit to the White House. 

The launch of Indus-X marks a significant leap in technological collaboration and defense industrial cooperation between the two nations. It brings together their governments, businesses, and academic institutions in a unique partnership. This venture is a fulfillment of a pledge made by the US and Indian national security advisors in January 2023, to establish an “innovation bridge”. This bridge aims to link US and Indian defense startups under the umbrella of the US-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology [iCET].

Just a day after the program announcement, a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] has been inked between GEA and HAL. This strategic alliance not only supercharges the Indian Air Force with reliable engine power but also enriches the burgeoning Indian defense industry with the vital technology exchange under the expansive Indus-X initiative. But, this begs an intriguing question – what’s in it for the US?

Loyalty?

The United States is keenly invested in the geopolitical landscape, seeking to align India more closely with the Western bloc. According to Tristan Sauer, a land domain analyst at GlobalData, this strategy is driven by US policymakers’ growing anxiety about the emergence of a ‘multi-polar world order’. Keeping on good terms with major economic players like India is a strategic must. 

He further explains, “Given India’s membership in the BRICS organization and its historical dependence on the Russian defense industry, it is perceived as being more susceptible to diverting from US interests. Therefore, strengthening bilateral ties is not just important for US foreign policy, but also for national security at large.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Despite not being a part of NATO, India maintains a robust trade relationship with Russia. According to GlobalData, the Indian Armed Forces are equipped with several Russian platforms, including 68 MiG-29UPG units and 93 MiG-21 units in the Air Force, though these are considered outdated. 

Recently, India has experienced delivery issues with Russian defense materials, as the Russian defense industry struggles to meet export demands while also supporting their forces engaged in Ukraine. As a result, the US government is keen on encouraging stronger ties between US and Indian defense firms. The goal? To help reduce India’s reliance on the Russian defense industry, as expressed by Sauer.

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