General Studies IIIInternal SecuritySecurity





  • The GTRE GTX-35VS Kaveri is an afterburning turbofan project developed by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), a lab under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Bengaluru, India.
  • An Indian design, the Kaveri was originally intended to power production models of the HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being built by the Aeronautical Development Agency.
  • However, the Kaveri programme failed to satisfy the necessary technical requirements or keep up with its envisaged timelines and was officially delinked from the Tejas programme in September 2008.
  • Snecma, on a tie up with DRDO, is slated to revive and certify the engine as part of the offsets deal for 36 Dassault Rafale jets purchased by India.


  • In 1986, the Indian Defence Ministry’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was authorized to launch a programme to develop an indigenous powerplant for the Light Combat Aircraft.
  • It had already been decided early in the LCA programme to equip the prototype aircraft with the General Electric F404-GE-F2J3 afterburning turbofan engine, but if this parallel program was successful, it was intended to equip the production aircraft with this indigenous engine.
  • The DRDO assigned the lead development responsibility to its Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), which had some experience in developing jet engines. It had developed the GTX37-14U after-burning turbojet, which first ran in 1977, and was the first jet engine to be designed entirely in India.
  • A turbofan derivative, the GTX37-14UB, followed. The GTRE returned to turbojet technology with the greatly redesigned, but unsatisfactory, GTX-35.
  • For the LCA programme, the GTRE would again take up a turbofan design which it designated the GTX-35VS “Kaveri” (named after the Kaveri River).
  • Full-scale development was authorized in April 1989 in what was then expected to be a 93-month programme projected to cost ₹3.82 billion (US$50.7 million). A new engine typically costs up to $2 billion to develop, according to engine industry executives


The Kaveri program has attracted much criticism due to its ambitious objective, protracted development time, cost overruns, and the DRDO’s lack of clarity and openness in admitting problems. France’s SNECMA, with over half a century of successful jet engine development experience, took nearly 13 years to bring the Rafale fighter’s M88 engine to low-volume production after bench testing had begun; a similar timespan for the less-experienced GTRE would see Kaveri production beginning no earlier than 2009. Another criticism has been DRDO’s reluctance to admit problems in the engine and its resistance to involve foreign engine manufacturers until the problems became too large to handle.

Current status

Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioned Kaveri Engine project in 1989. The following milestones were achieved:

·   9 Full prototype engines and 4 core engines built

·   3217 hours of engine testing conducted

·   Completed Altitude tests & Flying Test Bed (FTB) trials.  This is the first time that an indigenously developed military gas turbine engine was flight tested

Kaveri engine project has achieved higher Technology Readiness Level (TRL) in many critical technology domains and those technologies are being used in the various engine development programmes of the country.  Further the engines are used as test vehicles for validating next generation technologies.

Funds details are as follows:

Funds allocatedExpenditureCommitment
Rs. 2105 croreRs. 2035.56 croreRs. 2097.65 crore

At present, the LCA Tejas is integrated with an imported engine. However, in future, it is proposed to develop indigenous engines for powering our own aircrafts such as LCA variants and AMCA in association with an International Engine House.  The technological capabilities built through the Kaveri engine project will be utilised. 

LCA Tejas, Flight Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration demands higher thrust than the intended engine requirement. Hence the Kaveri in the present architecture cannot be integrated.  In order to induct with LCA Tejas, a modified engine version is required.

Way Forward:

  • The government shall declare the project as ‘national mission’ and initiate urgent remedial actions.
  • Optimum level of funding for research projects should be provided by the governments.
  • Domestic industry and start-ups shall be used to provide necessary support.
  • End users- the military and the air force should be considered as stakeholders while designing Military Grade Technologies.
  • Research conducive institutions shall be developed by bringing back the overseas Indians, which shall stop brain drain from the Country.
    • The success of the Kaveri programme will transform the aerospace scene and put India in the front ranks of aeronautical nations, perhaps even ahead of China. If we miss this opportunity, we will remain abjectly import-dependent forever in this Vital Area.

Source: PIB

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