Despite the jubilation over 70-odd glitch-free flights of the LCA’s two technology demonstrators (TD-I and TD-II), there’s tension among defence ministry technocrats. Kaveri, the indigenous engine to power the fighter aircraft, is yet to clear a slew of tests. Designed at the Gas Turbine Research Establishment, Bangalore, the engine is now in Russia for extensive tests. "It looks like the engine will complete these tests and be fitted into the LCA by 2006, which will be followed by test flights. It might receive a certification in 2010. We’ve no choice but to buy the F-404 engines so that the fighters are ready for induction into the IAF in 2008," defence ministry sources told Outlook.
A team of ministry officials are slated to leave for the US to negotiate the acquisition of 50 engines, "the best in the world in terms of performance and fuel efficiency". Each will cost about $5 million. Though the acquisition of these engines means cost escalation (each aircraft costs about Rs 125 crore), officials are confident the lca will cost less than half the cost of combat aircraft manufactured by France or Britain.