Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Jet Engines

According to industry specialists, China will spend $49 billion on jet engine development over the next two decades.

There is a clear economic logic behind his huge expenditure: Going by the present trends, engines for new aircraft delivered to China would be worth over $100 billion during the same period. There are only a handful of companies that manufacture these engines - General Electric (USA), Snecma (Safran, France), Rolls Royce Plc (UK), Pratt & Whitney (UTC, USA), and a few Russian agencies. As in any other hi-tech area, none of the established players want to part with their technology.

About a decade ago, China solved a similar problem in high-speed train technology by playing off the Kawasaki-Japan against their German competitors. It is a different story - and rather unfortunate - that China's "digestion" of this technology has been mired by frequent accidents and corruption in high places. The point here is that concerted effort is being made to dilute the stranglehold of a few companies.

Is India making similar efforts?

We do have something called the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE). This DRDO agency has been working on on jet engines since the 1960s, but there is precious little (GTX-Kaveri) to show for all the time and effort. We blame the American regime of technology restrictions, and then go on to sign numerous 'collaboration agreements' with Western companies, to continue the vicious cycle of path dependence.


* Lague, David and Charlie Zhu (2012): INSIGHT - UNABLE TO COPY IT, CHINA TRIES BUILDING OWN JET ENGINE, Reuters, 29Oct12, url -

* Wines, Michael and Keith Bradsher (2011): CHINA RAIL CHIEF'S FIRING HINTS AT TROUBLE, NYT, url -

* Reddy, C. Manmohan (2002): LCA ECONOMICS, The Hindu, url -

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