In an important step that will galvanise India’s largest ever domestic arms deal – viz. the acquisition of 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters for Rs 45,696 crore – Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has ordered 99 engines worth US $716 million (Rs 5,375 crores) for the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Tuesday.

Since it first flew in January 2001, the Tejas LCA has been powered by a single General Electric (GE) F404-IN20 engine. HAL is continuing with that engine for its first 123 fighters. Support services for the engine will also be provided by GE Aviation, USA, as a part of this project.

The Tejas Mark 1 and 1A both use the highest thrust variant of GE’s F404 family, the F404-IN20. “This incorporates GE’s latest “hot section materials and technologies” as well as FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control),” stated the MoD.

FADEC is a computer-managed aircraft ignition and engine control system that is used in modern commercial and military aircraft to control all aspects of engine performance digitally. It replaces the old technical or analogue electronic controls in previous generation aircraft.

“This is largest ever deal and purchase order placed by HAL for the LCA”, said R Madhavan, HAL’s chairman and managing director.

HAL is working closely with GE to develop the export potential of the LCA, and to supply spare parts to the global supply chain of GE 404 engines, Madhavan said.

“The F404 family of engines has proven itself in operations all over the world and we have committed to deliver all 99 engines and support services by 2029”, stated Chris Cyr, Vice President of GE Aviation.

The F404 engines are amongst the world’s most comprehensively proven, having logged more than 14 million engine flight hours. The F404 has powered 15 different production and prototype aircraft, said GE in a press release today.

The next batch of GE engines that will be bought are the bigger, more powerful GE F-414 engines for the Tejas LCA Mark 2 fighter. The F-404 will not be built in India as it is required in limited quantities. However the F-414 engines are likely to be built in India in larger numbers.