Monday, October 5, 2009

RD-33 for Tejas?

India Defence Online reports India is seriously considering to use the Russian 33/RD-33MK engines for the homegrown Light Combat Aircraft, as it already used the Indian Air Force fleet of MiG-29 aircraft.
  I have already wrote about this possibility in this blog early. I think, the allegedly selling of an uprated RD-93 engine to China and the current Indian activity around RD-33MK are two related events. Indeed, during some years (more than 5) Russia repeatedly refused to sell the RD- 33 variant with increased thrust to China. One possible reason for this – is the Indian pressure and the agreement between two nations for not allowing China to have more advanced weapons than India. The second one – Russia by self doesn't want China to be too assertive, so the weapons sold for China were always inferior in some degree relative to what Moscow sells to Delhi.

But the technological development is continuing. Sometimes you must run for keeping your place intact. Russia cannot refuse to sell 9 t RD-93 engine for China infinitely (till now it sold only 8.3 t thrust variant). It because the China copy WS-13 (with 7.8 t thrust) is gradually improved and becoming close in its characteristics to the regular RD-93. If Russia refuses now it will lose both the market and the leverage on China. So, the refusing loses its sense. Now the Russian engine manufacturers use Chines money for R&D, so India benefits from this situation too, since China in reality pays for India's advantage. Otherwise the price for new Russian engines, imported to India would be significantly higher.

It's not a secret, that India wants its Tejas light fighter will be more advanced than the Chinese fighter FC-1 (JF-17) of the same weight class. This advantage has not only a military but political and psychological aspect too. One of the most important and persuasive characteristic of a fighter is its engine. According to its thrust, reliability, service life can be made the conclusions about capability of the aircraft to take weapons and fight.

Thus, the current Indian preoccupation in seeking a more powerful engine for its indigenous Tejas project is well understood against the background of aggressive Chinese FC-1 marketing to India's neighbors. A more powerful engine with longer life could help Tejas mk.2 to take-off from the carrier deck, keep more payload and be more maneuverable in dogfight. Now installed GE F-404 engine isn't powerful enough, and the development of the indigenous Kaveri engine is too slow.

Till now two foreign engines were evaluated by India as candidates for Tejas mk.2: the European 90 kN EJ200 (EF-2000) and the American 98 kN GE F-414 (Super-Hornet). Only F-414 gives Tejas a decisive advantage over FC-1's RD-93 in thrust, although being slightly heavier. However, the airframe (inlets) rework is needed too for installation. 90 kN EJ200 has no significant advantage over RD-93 especially if the last is going to be uprated to 9 t = 88.2 kN. Furthermore, since the uprated variant of RD-93 is based on RD-33MK technologies, it must have service life close to 4.000 h. Whilst EJ200 according to some sources has only 2000 h life.

The Chinese were not allowed to produce RD-93, but they bought a repairing facility and technologies for repair. Thus they are unable to make a new RD-93 but theoretically still can try to 'overclock' RD-93 for even more thrust - 90-93 kN – however with expense of reducing life in some degree. In such a way they can have an engine with better than EJ200 tech characteristics for half a price. It can be the critical point for their FC-1 program export success. If they indeed, as was reported, are going to buy up to 500-1000 RD-93 engines with increased power, they are very serious in this aspect.

As my reason says me, the Indians tops could be now with the dilemma:

1) Going for the American 98 kN F-414 . Proved risk to be sanctioned in most unpredictable and hard situation. A totally new engine in IAF and IN inventory. However, could have some sense if F/A-18 wins MMRCA tender. Growing friction with US on nuclear issue makes this choice too risky and so – improbable.
2) 90 kN EJ200 – doesn't give any tech advantage for Tejas against it's main competitor and rival. According to my estimation could be as twice more costly than RD-33MK-based engine if recounted to lifespan. Theoretically can be sanctioned by each participant of this project (GB, Germany, Italy). Significantly reduces the export prospective of Tejas being too costly for potential LCA consumers in 3rd World.
3) RD-33MK variant with the bottom gear placement and a thrust vectoring nozzle (RD-133). Can be upgraded up to 10 t (98 kN) thrust in near future without changing the engine core. The Russian obligation to not sell TVN for China can be obtained, so the advantage of Tejas mk.2 engine (if chosen) can be visible and persuasive for public. The KLIVT all aspect TVN can be especially worth for the carrier based Tejas' variant now actively developed by HAL. The 8.3 t RD-33 ser.3 variant of the engine is already licensioned and ToTed in India, so only a minimal addition will be needed for RD-33MK production in India.

The last developments, the new contract for additional 29 MiG-29K\KUB and the Indian intention for purchasing more 50 Su-30MKI say Delhi has no any 'allergy' to Russian military stuff as some English-speaking writers hint in their publications. Therefore, even deeper cooperation can be predicted between India and Russia in military-industrial sphere, including common development. If RD-33MK chosen as a transitional engine for Tejas LCA (till Kavery ready), it's would be logically to use the Russian expertize for accelerated integration it into the redesigned LCA airframe. In most successful scenario we can reckon even a joint venture for accelerated LCA export for third countries with the Russian engine. This could have the framework of Brahmos program, when one side gives its almost ready project for joint revision and export, but keeping  independence in domestic production.  Only by this way the Indo-Russian tandem could compete with the aggressive Chinese marketing of its light fighters in 3rd World. For now Russia has no a project which could be an alternative to Chinese FC-1 fighter in light class.

The current development also raise the Russian chances to win MMRCA tender, since the opportunity for engine unification between IAF and the Navy on one already ToTed engine (RD-33)  seams to be too attractive for refuse.


  1. Great post Igor. Keep posting these amazing happenings (read news)with respect to Indo - Russian Defence Industry.

    Let us see what the Indian Govt decides. I will try to get more info regarding the same.

  2. Hello Igor

    An interesting article, but the specs you took for GE 414 and EJ 200 are mainly for the actual versions. For MMRCA, or LCA they are offered in improved versions!
    GE has statet up to 20% more thrust for the 414 engine, so it could be up to 117kN for LCA. EF will be offered in the Tranche 3 version in MMRCA, reports say that the engine will have lower maintenance cost now and for LCA it is offered also with increased thrust (some sources say 10 - 12% more is possible) and TVC!
    If you take these improvements to account and that they allready proved supercruise capability (at EF it self and at Gripen NG) it seems the western engines would be the technically better choice.
    Also you point out the lower export chances with an expensive western engine, but aren't you forgetting the Kaveri engine? The order is only for around 100 engines with 50 more optional,
    so isn't it more likely that they want a ready and proven engine just for fast induction of the delayed LCA and use the experience (maybe even ToT) to improve Kaveri engine for later exports?

    HAL has already experience in producing RD 33 engines, I doubt they will learn something totally new by producing RD 33-3, or MK, but access to latest western engine techs means new know how which will be more helpful to improve Kaveri engine.
    The last reason against RD 33MK is the weight! LCA has overweight problems and EADS has joint as a consultant to solve it. So the weight of the engine should be a reason too and here the EJ 200 gives one more advantage.

    EJ 200 - 989 KG
    RD 33MK - 1055 KG
    GE 414 - 1109 KG

    RD 33MK for LCA might be cheap and could block some techs for China and Pakistan, but a ready Kaveri engine could be cheaper and blocking the best european engine to them is a bigger advantage than blocking some improvements to RD 93.

    Of course Delhi has no any 'allergy' to Russian military stuff, that's only progaganda against Russia. But if you follow the latest procurements of Indian forces, you will see that they only buy new variants of Russian aircrafts, that already are in service (IL 76 for AWACS, more Su 30, Mig 29 K/KUB, Ka 31). On the other side, real new aircrafts are co-developments with Russia, or new western types (FGFA, MTA / C130, C17, A330 MRTT).
    Imo that means India is still highly interested in the indo-russian relationship, but not as a simple buyer anymore. India today has all and especially way more options than China, or Pakistan in the arms field. So Russia has to come up with new and comparable high techs as the western countries, or (and thats the better way) team up with India for co-developments!

    That's why I doubt the Mig 35 has a chance in MMRCA, because in comparison it is only better in unit cost, or logistic, but technically and in maintenance it is inferior to some of the western fighters. If IAF wanted more Migs, they would have gone with new SMTs in the first competition, but they didn't and to me that means they want something new and better, without focusing only on the costs.

  3. to Sancho:

    If you starting discourse about future improvement of EJ200 and F-414 it would be wrong to compare their future variants with the current serial produced RD-33MK, wouldn't it. If so, we would rather compare future with future instead future with the actual.

    'Klimov' has its own program for RD-33 improvement too. Without a new core implementing they scheduled 10 t (98 kN) trust. And with the new 5th gen gas generator they some years ago already promised 12 t thrust engine, i.e. - on the same level as GE is promising now. For me it's clear that in same engine weight with the comparable technology can be achieved the same thrust. And the engine technology is well comparable between Russia and US in this issue.

  4. to Sancho:

    I'm still in impression that they offer for LCA today what they will make tomorrow. Let's read carefully the article about EJ200 you linked:

    "Eurojet envisages a two-phase thrust vectoring nozzle flight-test programme, firstly using a twin-engine aircraft equipped with a single non-FCS-integrated thrust vectoring nozzle, followed by trials of the fully integrated system on both powerplants."

    - I.e. is spoken about an engine over the testing. BTW they yet have a navalized version, have they? And the thrust increasing is also an issue of the future. Sure they work on it, no doubts.

    And what we can read in the second article about the f414 upgrade program? literally:

    "Despite the dramatic thrust increase, the EPE would not require enlarging the F/A-18E/F's engine inlets to enable increased air flow, Gower said. Gower also said the EPE would require changing the number of compressor stages, but he did not elaborate."

    - Does not he tell us about a future? May be I dont understand English enough, it's possible...

    In addition, this prepared f414 upgrade above 10 t thrust will be done only with a new 5th gen gas generator. So can imagine how it will cost and what chance India get ToT for it...

    I'm sure in addition to current RD-33MK the Russians also offer for India 11-12 t thrust RD-133 with a brand new gas-generator and turbine. They tell about their development program already some years. Only that Flightglobal doesn't publish this.

  5. I agree with you Igor, As earlier said Flightgobal is one of the many Western Propaganda Tools to showcase their view point. If only the US was serious enough to offer the latest engines with improved capabilities they should have invited Indian counterparts to visit their manufacturing hubs like the Russians did.

  6. Dear Igor,

    It was very interesting to read various comments. Against your hope for RD-33, there are following points against it:

    1. RFQ have gone out to EJ & GE.I do not know whether any Russian engine makers showed any interest in this. Last day for submissions is 12th Oct 09. After this, no submissions will be entertained. Till date only 2 submissions have been received. No other engines will be considered for the next 100 + 50 fighters.

    2. After fitting a new type of engine, it will be costly & difficult to change this.

    3. I do not know why India paid money for the agreement to license produce this. Indian Defense Industry provides ample leeway to loot public money and create unnecessary employment opportunities by Indian politicians.

    The only other reason may be they are not sure about supplies of spares for the next 30 years, when the upgraded MiG29 and naval MiG 29 will be in service. They have had bitter experience with supplies for Su-30MKI engines.

    No spares are available in India. They have to remove the entire engine and send it to Russia for even small repairs.

    As a contrast to this, the IAF saw depot level spares & repair for western engines, during their exercises with US and UK.

    4. You have mentioned the life of RD-33 at @ 4000 hours.According to Mr Prasun Sengupta (, the 4000 hours of life for RD-33 is low compared to the 6000+ hours offered by GE as well as EJ.

    No reputed company will stake their reputation by offering false figures. It will cause long term harm. As these are reputed companies,they will not state such falsehoods for such a small order.

    That means that India (IAF) has evaluated the engines available to them and decided the best option for their aircraft.

    5. Regarding sanctions, that is why India is developing the Kaveri. Again, help is sought from Western sources, as the IAF wants to have the reliability, ease of maintenance at depot level with interchangeable parts & increased life, resulting in lower running costs. Also, today the economics of the world have changed in favour of Asia.

    The essence of this is as follows :

    The engine makers from Russia have not only have to offer greater technology to their customers but better service to existing customers.

  7. to anon October 6, 2009 8:01 AM:

    Thank you (and the rest participators) for the interest in my blog!

    As to the service issue, India would not ToTise and licensing both RD-33 and AL-31FN if was not satisfied with the situation. Donno what exactly was with Su-30MKI engines, but now India is going to repair all its Russian engines at home, and to build them too. So, I hardly can understand about what 'service problem' you say...

    Furthermore, US recently refused helping Delhi in N-LCA development on the political ground . See plz the new info about it here

    thus INavy seeks for a new partner. The Russians certainly ARE the candidates for this, with their close partner relations with Delhi and the current involvement in the Indian carrier program. THey also have for this a navalized engine powerful enough and comparable with the current Indian inventory. So, Russians have a good chance I think.

    As to the current LCA engine tender, it could be changeable as well. How many tenders were scraped in India during past a half of decade, hmm?

  8. great blog igor...
    i want to ask you some thing
    regarding the lca engine tender we are considering ej200,ge414,rd-33mk
    what are the thrust in engine they are offering to india
    is they offering
    1.ej200=90kn or 90kn+12%increased thrust+tvn (ej4000?)
    2.ge414=98kn or 117kn epe engine
    3.rd-33mk=9t or 12t RD-133 with 5th gen gas generator
    is the RD-133 with 12t offered in the mig-35 to the MRCA competition
    i am taking about extra thrust as lca have over weight problems and an extra thrust can always be handy in operational times
    also the weight issue
    EJ 200 - 989 KG
    RD 33MK - 1055 KG
    GE 414 - 1109 KG
    if this is correct then ej200 is in advantage but with 90kn+12%increased thrust+tvn(ej4000?)
    ge 414 is also good with epe and 117kn thrust thought heavy and comes with a huge sanction risk
    rd 33mk or rd 133 is great with 12t thrust and less weight than ge 414
    now the life ej200and ge 414 is supposed to have a life of @ 4000 hours- 6000 hours
    whereas rd-33mk or rd-133 has life of @ 4000 hours thats a negative point of rd-33mk or rd-133(though 12 t thrust is great)
    another point is the cost i read some where (i may be wrong)that the price of ej200=10min dollars,ge414=4min dollars,rd-33mk=?
    so if this is true then
    ej200 with 90kn+12%increased thrust+tvn(ej4000?)=>10 mil(tot though 100+60 engine the cost can come down)
    ge 414 with 117kn epe =>4 mil(tot though 100+60 engine the cost can come down)
    rd-33mk 0r rd-133 with 12t thrust=? i dont know the price but it must be cheaper than ej200 and ge414 with if 12t it is a winner
    but another point is the integration and tot
    ej200 and ge 414 said that they do not need any airframe change of lca or minor chage
    here i thing ge 414 has an advantage as ge 414 id made from ge404 which powers lca
    rd-mk or rd-133 should definitely need more greater airframe change
    lastly tot
    ej200 has said to give more than 60%tot (required in tender)
    ge414 had submitted proposal but its tot should be cleared by us congress
    rd-33mk HAL already produce rd33 series 3 and got the tot so rd-33mk does not give advantage here though its tot can be easily absorbed by HAL.
    can you give your views on this IGOR.
    on a different context the rd 33 series 3 which HAL will start production for the mig 29 upgrade
    is its thrust 90kn or 9t and does its have tvn for the mig 29 upgrade(as i heard IAF personal said recently it wants upgraded mig 29 to have 90kn engines and tvn[i may be wrong]).
    thanks IGOR.

  9. to anon October 6, 2009 1:11 PM :

    Hi friend!

    When you write about F414 with 117 kN you have understand it WILL BE an engine with a new 5th gen hot core, so the price in no way will be $4 mil, but above $9-10mil, like EJ200 has already. So, take it in your account.

    Also I take as a postulate that the Russian engines if have the same thrust will alway cheaper, than US or EU, it's just economics... Donno how much could be a future price to 12 t RD-133, but is obvious for me it will be cheaper then the Western counterpart or have more thrust\life characteristics.

    Now, the life of currently produced EF200 and F414 is not fully clear since there are not officially info about this, 3rd part estimation only. I could only said, than GE is panning to raise 3 times the f414 life up to 6000 h, so the current lifespan of this engine seems to be closer to 2000 h, than to 6000h.

    As about to current MiG-29 upgrade, the initial plan was to install on the upgraded MiGs the 8.3 t (as 82.5 kN) RD-33 ser. 3 variant, but it's known from the Russian source that the Indian side ask for the new, more advance configuration for this upgrade. It's one of the reason for some months delay. Thus 9 t (88.2 kN) RD-33 variant on these planes seems to me very logical, but have no exact information about this.

  10. Igor glad to know your opinion about our lca

  11. Let me add a few figures that have not been mentioned here.
    RD33-3 unit cost $2 million.
    EJ200 unit cost $8 million!
    How can anyone ignore these figures while discussing miniscule differences in performance.
    $6 million cost difference would mean a 20% cost escalation for LCA.

  12. to anon October 6, 2009 2:39 PM:

    It's just what I try to explain: with an RD-33\93 derivative LCA becomes attractive not only for IAF/IN, but for the foreign customers, well competing with Chinese FC-1 in both tech characteristics and price. With TVN it can compete even with Grippen. But with ej200 it could be Arjun-like situation, when an overpriced foreign engine applies brakes on whole program.

  13. Actually Eurojet started exactly this development (TVC and more thrust) a decade ago, when Saab searched for an future engine for the Gripen NG Demonstrator. Saab went with GE 414, but now the LCA could benefit of this development, so I do think that TVC and more thrust is available now and that’s why they offering it so openly.
    I can’t tell you if they have a navalized version, but the fact that UK considered about a naval version of EF some years ago makes it possible. But even if not I don’t expect that to be a big issue, because the order is for 100 – 150 IAF LCA, whereas IN only ordered 6 N-LCAs and I doubt there will be more.

    Also keep in mind that these engines will be used around 2013 for LCA MK2 and one year later for MMRCA, so they offer the versions that will be ready then.
    Klimov might improve their engine too, but as I said, HAL already have knowledge of RD 33 engines and getting western ToT is a bigger benefit now. That and the fact that China and Pakistan already uses the RD 93 makes it less likely that India will go for RD 33 for LCA.

    Imo opinion the EJ 200 will win, because of less weight, most ToT that will benefit Kaveri engine (so it can be the cheap export engine), TVC, the possibility of supercruise and because EADS is already involved as a consultant in the project.

  14. thaks IGOR for answering
    on a different context can you tell me the difference between indian T-90S AND T-9OM with russian T-9OM
    and can you give any image or image links for the new completed mig 35 rolled out during marks 2009 time

  15. The next T-90 upgrade is still classified, all its 'specifications' going in the Internet are pure speculations. As about a new MiG-35, it will take a participation in MMRCA tests in India next month if the information is right. Have no its pics yet sorry.

  16. hey ask thse Indians who object to russia sellign to china, as to do the indians have guts to say no tho the americans who offer free f18 to paksitan and then offers f16 and f18 to indians? can the idnians sshow two fingers to america for daring to seel obsolete f16s and that too after selling that to paksitan?
    Russia gave to india mig 29 when even warsaw countries did nto have them. still ungreateful indians complain and ask more of russai than they can dare ask of any western country.
    i would say boycott indian then let us see what india gets from other countries ind efence except obsolete arms. and i am saying as an indian.

  17. Indian anglophile class -especially indian english language media -is a race of Coolies and traitors.
    the same class of indians who are doing propaganda agasinty china today are the same people who forced rajiv gandhi in 1987 to make friendship with china(and recognise tibet as part of china) why-? because the usa had ben friend with china since 1984 and wanted india tobe friend too as opposed to russia.-therefore the indian parasite class foll=made the Indian foreign policy viz china not to suit india but to suit american interests-it is doing the same but in revere direction this time because their anglo-american masters want them to do so.the same indian elite class (for example the president of ranbaxy one MR. Singh,, chairman of FICCi at the time in 80s was vehemently opposing any defence increase or of of buying of defence equioments while asking for freidnship with china as desired by usa ain 80s). the same FICCi is making propaganda agasint DRDo and(with 6% of defence budget) and indian scintisits saying it has not kept the develpopmnet of innovations and kept the 50 yurs old mig 21 not in shape!.) These same indian traitors want india to buy 40 yrs old arms (like junk f16 and f-18) from america knowing fully well that it comes with a heavy conditions unlike almost condition free and better arms(new mig-35) from russia.-but then thse elites are agents of angnlo american interests -so no surprise here-it is high time that thse elites are killed or kicked out of india-these are allwais(iraqi traitor) of india.• Russia is already supplying India with the Sukhoi-30MKI, an advanced "fourth generation" warplane that consistently defeats its Western counterparts, such as the frontline US fighters, the F-15C and F-16. Versions of the Su-30 are also being sold to China, Venezuela, and Malaysia.

  18. Such rantings!The foremost fighters of USA at present are F22 & F15E.

  19. to igorr

    which radar first su30k delivered to india in 1997 had?

    note-not to be confused with su30mki which has bars

  20. to anon October 9, 2009 6:26 AM

    NIIP TIkhomirov's N001 'Mech' mechanical radar. The same antenna like on Su-30MKK, only the DSP and the software were different.

  21. Hi,
    1)On this blog, the author is mentioning about the fact that GOI is negotiating with Russia for an additonal 90 MKI(230+90).
    2)Another follow on Talwar class ships on order i.e 6+3. The weapons suite on later ships i.e 3+3
    are still shtil . Why so? Is Russia agains integrating Israeli sensons on Talwar's series of ships

    3)There is silent rumour that is Brahmos definelty is 300km+.

  22. Hi Igorr,
    Track this link:

    Our defence minister is visiting Russia this month.

  23. to anon October 9, 2009 10:30 AM :

    1) cannot find. have you a direct link?
    2) Does India want Barak on Talwar-class indeed? I read a couple of years ago, that problems have appeared with Barak on its tests in India.
    3) Almost sure it is so. Usually they put 20-25% grow potential on a new missile system. With their proposed 5-7 M Brahmos-II it's easy to guess they yet to exhaust the energy potential preserved in this missile's dimension. I would bet on 500 km max in this weight class. However, the question is were Brahmos tested on more than 300 km range? I think no.

  24. The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony will be going on a three day official visit to Moscow on 13 October to attend the 9th meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC). The extension of the existing India-Russia Long Term Inter-Governmental Agreement on the programme for Military Technical Cooperation for a further 10 years, from 2011 to 2020, will be the main focus of discussions during the meeting of the commission.The indigenous production of the Russian origin T-90 S tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, under license from the Russian side will be one of the major on-going projects, in which the Russian side is providing technical and product support for the indigenous production of tanks. The modernisation of the SU 30 MK1 aircraft is also expected to come up for discussion in the Commission’s meeting. The aircraft, contracted in 1996, are due for overhaul shortly and the Russia side have offered an upgrade of the aircraft with incorporation of the latest technologies during the major overhaul.
    Among the major new projects which will be high in priorities of the Indian agenda for bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries, will be projects for joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA). The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia has been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. During discussions in the meeting of the Commission, Shri Antony would highlight New Delhi’s interest in ensuring that the development phase of the FGFA is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated and that induction of the aircraft into the IAF can start by 2017.

  25. Hiii Igor,
    It seems only GE or EJ engines are in running for LCA.

  26. Actually igor if we overclock a rd 33 the sfc wold be adversely effected problematic in a small plane like the LCA.

  27. to anon November 24, 2009 12:13 PM:

    =if we overclock a rd 33 the sfc wold be adversely effected=

    - probably the opposite: the sfc theoretically will be improved with raising temperature in same other conditions due to better efficiency coefficient. higher temperature means better thermodynamic cycle.

  28. Fall back options are required soon, in order to prevent any remote chances of export potential failures of Tejas program:
    1. Develop MK1A ver. on RD-33MK engines, as MK1A a/c will be 800 kilos lighter than MK1! This will make the bird cheaper for export also and costs for induction into IAF reduces.
    2. Simultaneously keep a MK1A ver. flying on GE-F404-IN20 engines also as a backup..
    3. Develop MK2 ver. on the more powerful GE-F414 engines as and when GE delivers these to ADA-HAL...
    4. For AMCA developments, ADA needs to really brain-storm on which engines to use- depending on reliability of vendors, ToT offered or not, and costs also! Otherwise, the project can be very easily "killed-off" by a "green-eyed" next US Govt in power!