In October 2018, India inked an agreement worth US$5.43 billion with Russia to procure four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defense system, which is one of the most powerful Air Defense Systems in the world, ignoring the CAATSA act. The U.S. threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
“We’re aware of reports regarding India’s plans of purchasing missiles, including the S-400 systems. Some people ask if there is a blanker waiver for countries, which is not the case. It is on a case-by-case basis. We’ve not made any waiver determination in respect to Indian transactions with Russia,” said the Don Heflin, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires during the U.S. Embassy’s conference on Aero India. He is leading a high-level delegation of U.S. government officials and defense industry representatives at Aero India 2021.
Since HAL & ADA are developing HAL/ADA Tejas & its derivatives program, alongside the Indian 5th generation fighter aircraft known as Advance Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), both programs are using the powerplants of US Origin. The Tejas Mk1 & Mk1-A are using GE F404 engines, while the Mk2 aka Medium Weight Fighter (MWF), the twin-engine derivative of it, the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), and the AMCA will be using the GE F414-400 afterburning turbofan engines capable of producing maximum thrust numbers of 98KN in afterburning.
The Indian will to induct locally produced fighter may get frozen for a long period of time amid the arrival of the S400 AD system from Russia, which became the reason for the termination of the delivery of the world most modern 5th generation fighter aircraft, the F35 JSF to Turkey, which was ordered 100 in number. If we apply similar sanctions on India, the United States can halt the delivery of F404 & F414 engines to India in the future. Which would result in a complete shutdown of the Tejas program as well as the upcoming AMCA, Tejas Mk1A & Mk2. India would have to look for alternatives to the powerplant. Any engine, if they find will not be an ideal case for the Tejas itself, since it is a small aircraft & replacing the engine will change its aerodynamics characteristics, especially in terms of speed, Maximum Takeoff Weight, Range, Power available for the Radar & Avionics, etc.
Let’s have a look & compare the available options for India for Powerplant Replacement:
Characteristics of F-404 & F-414
- Length: 390 cm
- Diameter: 89 cm
- Dry weight: 1,035 & 1130 Kgs
- Thrust: 90 kN & 97.9 kN
EJ200 (Difficult to acquire due to the US)
- Length: 398.78 cm
- Diameter: 73.66 cm
- Dry weight: 988.83 kg
- Thrust: 90 kN
Snecma M88 (Underpowered)
- Length: 353.8 cm
- Diameter: 69.6 cm
- Dry weight: 897 kg
- Thrust: 75 kN
GTX-35VS Kaveri (Unavailable)
- Length: 349.0 cm
- Diameter: 90.93 cm
- Dry weight: 1,236 kg
- Thrust: 81 kN
RD-33 (Huge Dimensional Differences)
- Length: 422.9 cm
- Diameter: 104 cm
- Dry weight: 1,055 kg
- Thrust: 88.3 kN
None of the above-mentioned engines perfectly fit in the place of F404/414. The EJ engine seems an ideal replacement for India, but if they get the engine the next day after American sanctions on India, assuming that the US will not be pressurizing NATO allies, India will face massive problems since it has different dimensions and mass characteristics. Tejas will be again on the drawing board, where the designers would be adjusting the airframe around the engine. Moreover, the depleting strength of IAF will be affected massively, as MMRCA 2.0 seems shambling due to a shortage of funds and the keen desire of Modi Govt to induct Made in India platforms. Indian navy will also face severe difficulties as their Mig29 Ks need replacement, while their second carrier will also be requiring new aircraft. The ideal candidate for it is F/A-18 Super Hornet, which again is an American Platform using the F-414 engines. Rafale, since having unfoldable wings, will not be something IN will want to put on a small AC Vikrant.
Coming towards AMCA, a 5th generation aircraft highly inspired from F35 for its frontal section & Mig21 for its middle section since the wings in the final frozen design are seemed to be copied from Mig21, will also be ceased before its further development. India will be left only with the options Rafale & Mig35 to induct to cater to the depleting strength of its aircraft fleet. Since IAF wants Super Sukhoi Upgrade for their Su30 MKIs, they will not induct the similar platform Su35.
These sanctions will also affect the availability of American Platforms on Air Arm of Indian forces, such as P8 & Apache, etc. While the missiles & other ammunition Indian Forces are acquiring from the US, will be highly affected. We Pakistan Strategic Forum wish India the best of luck for their S400 procurement since it will disturb India itself more, than India’s plan to disturb Pakistan.