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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Sea Harrier repair facility looks for new horizons

The swansong of the naval Sea Harrier jump jets on Wednesday brought down the curtains, though temporarily, on an unfailing air engineering facility at the Naval Aircraft Yard (Kochi) under the Southern Naval Command. The phasing out of the British origin Sea Harriers marked a watershed for the Aero Engine Repair and Overhaul Shop and the Pegasus Engine Test bed, which since 2001 had ensured the serviceability of the engines — originally made by Rolls Royce — that powered the single-engine Harriers. Plans are now afoot to monetise the critical infrastructure to take on repair, maintenance and overhaul of a slew of naval air engines, including the RD-33 MK engine powering the MiG 29K combat jets that operate from the deck of the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya. “While nothing has been firmed up as of now, there is a proposal to customise the aero engine facility to take on maintenance of top of the line naval aero engines such as the RD-33 MK engine, the Adour MK-871 engines on the naval AJT Hawk jet trainers, and eventually, the GE-404 and GE-414 engines on the indigenous LCA Tejas naval fighters. There will be a ‘Universal Test Bed Facility’ to boot,” a top source told The Hindu. The Naval Headquarters is contemplating the proposal. In the interim, a team of technical experts from the Koraput unit of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which specialises in Russian-origin engines, visited NAY(K) to see the feasibility of offloading a part of RD-33 MK engine maintenance to the MRO facility. “It will, however, be limited to modular units as a comprehensive facility for the engine already exists at Koraput. There’s no point in replicating it, as the scope of work is limited,” the source maintained. With a bit of handholding, the facility could take on any engine in service with the Navy right now, he added.

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