The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is optimistic about using its beleaguered indigenously-developed Kaveri engine to power the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas in just 18 months to two years. But it is looking for some degree of “handholding” by one or more global aircraft engine manufacturers, and is in talks with the French multinational Snecma to achieve that. DRDO director-general (Aero) Cr. CP Ramanarayanan said the engine clocked in 3,000 hours of flying, and will undergo crucial tests mid-2017. “The Kaveri engine is a complex technology…we want some amount of handholding from global engine houses,” he said. Over the next few months, the engine will be subjected to rigorous safety tests, the programme costs of which would see a rise by Rs 600 crore. The programme has already cost Rs 2,100 crore since it commenced in 1986. The Kaveri programme had failed to meet technical requirements. The defence experts felt the engine could provide the LCA just 65 Newtons of thrust against the US’s GE F404’s 84 Newtons. The engine was also 150 kg heavier than required. That apart, the engine had suffered a major technical problem during high-altitude tests in Russia, after which hopes for its revival vanished. The DRDO’s confidence on Kaveri powering LCA in two years could raise many eyebrows. LCA Tejas has just received a major boost of recording its largest order in the category of Indigenous Design Development and Marketing (IDDM) over procurement of 83 LCA-Tejas Mark-1 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, worth Rs 50,025 crore cleared by the DAC. Will a doubtful engine ruin it?