Aryobarzan jan, thanks for your question. I always enjoy reading your posts. Insight from a different perspective, it is refreshing and forces me to think like others, rather than from an engineering point of view.Not being an engine expert can I ask:
In terms of R&D work needed for an engine such as AL-31. Can you give an % estimate of effort required for any of the following domains : (If I missed an effort please add).
1- High level and detail design work of the engine itself
2- Material research of the engine (what alloys are needed ..etc)
3- Production of said materials (single crystals, alloys etc)
4- Engine support components (fuel pumps, electronic ..etc)
5- Engine assembly and test.
I am trying the wrap my head around what is it that makes reverse eng of this AL=31 so difficult....and I have no doubt about what so said about it being a very complex process.
Regarding your question, here's what I have to say (sorry if it is long with lots of background description):
Most of my hands-on experience came right after my post grad, and I got to work quite a bit in UK and France, for the 10 years after my college days. I always loved the part of my college course that was Mech Engineering (in particular control engineering which is electronics and mechanics with sensors) at college. During college I worked in Jaguar plant working on AI gear box for the S-Type which had not come out yet (it came out in 1999).
At RR, I worked on a variety of engines, there is no favorite since you have to not get too "close and personal" with any engine, as RR does not allow it. They want you to be moved around, from project to project, depending on "client" needs. I had a boss and then I had THE BOSS, which was either MOD or the U.S. military hot shot paying for everything, which made my managers suck ever inch of their ****. Then I became the manager and had to do the same, like rolling a dice (hand movement) in a casino.
RR always had a bunch of projects with the French, so I would be sent there a lot in the final 5+ years I was there. My roles had changed so many times.
I met many Iranians who worked at RR simply because they were sent there during the Shah's regime to train at RR. I spoke with them, most returned and we still keep in touch (somewhat, when they have time).
More specific to your question, R&D of a competent, leading, current technology engine depends on many things. Based on all the things I have seen at work (briefly mentioned above), I think the NUMBER 1 requirement is POLITICAL WILL.
Building Bavar 373 was not easy. But Iran had the absolute political will to build it. From the supreme leader to everyone else involved, they knew they had to build it or else U.S. and other cock-sucking maggots will bully Iran or bomb it. So they did it and now, making better technology implementation every day, and the next upgrade is quite interesting if they finish it.
The fighter airplanes, engines, AA missiles, AESA or multi-band, multi-mode, multi-channel PESA radars with solid state amplifiers, and other air force assets are NO DIFFERENT.
First, there needs to be political will. Then everything else is possible, within reason and time and cost.
If cost is no object, then anything is still possible within reason, but quicker.
Knowing all the above, we can now talk about the complexity of technology.
To me a gas turbine engine (having seen it through my own eyes for decades) has layers of "generations". What I mean is I don't see 5th, or 4th generation, or 3rd generation etc. as we all often talk about to communicate with each other.
I see more like 30+ generations of engines. And my basis on this is, ... materials engineering, implementation requirements, performance, reliability. To me an engine is a COMPROMISE, and what to make comes from GOOD JUDGMENT.
People (aviation engineers) here in U.S. often think RR Olympus is 1 engine or a few variations of one engine. Not true. RR Oly is about 20+ generations. From Bristol to RR, there has been so many variations, so many changes, so many tweaks that radically changed the engine, then changed back because of issues, be it fuel consumption, heating, material changes etc. etc.
Item (1) in your question, referring to design, well there is no 1 stage design. There are many variations, and many things that change and they retrospectively change other things within the design and make you go back to customer to re-evaluate the original specification/requirements and managing the expectations.
That is why I suggested in the past that Iran build an existing engine that it knows and knows well, like AL21. It is a KNOWN KNOWN and there is no surprises. Or even building an R35. All the problems and tweaks and variations have already been addressed. R35 not as much as AL21, but still better than relying on an engine that you have no idea when it will be ready for AF missions. Better for Iran in its unique position, with very limited funds, to go with known knowns.
I have never worked on a project that gave me more headaches (and I use to get all the headache projects), than working with a huge group of individuals and outside contractors regarding Nimrod. BAe and RR were at each others throats all the time. It was a *****ing nightmare. BR710 was what RR hated for this project but was forced to when the head of MOD division in Bath, came to see us. It was a nightmare. The engine was being simultaneously developed and tested in both U.K. and Germany. Imagine that? I hated going to Berlin. I love south of Germany, but Berlin, those days, was a ****hole and very nasty. I preferred going to Toulouse or Baden See, but not freaking Berlin. It was chaos what was going on with regards to Nimrod and Nimrod upgrade.
Things don't work they way it seems outside of these companies.
Your item (2), regarding materials, let me give you an actual platform I worked on quite a bit. Tay engine is one I don't hate too much (hehe). It is a pretty good engine, relatively. RR had many hopes for this, which of course never materialized since Pratt Whitney R&D went at lightening speed during 1990-2005. Their lobby groups in Washington are also amazing.
Tay has almost 400 different types of metal alloys, each part of the engine is almost different than another part, and each of these are developed by some ugly looking factory in some god-never seen little crappy town in England. It was depressing to go to some of these factories for QA, although the people were wonderful and the pubs were elegant with giant fire places the size of a small house. But imagine Iran needing to have all these infrastructures developed first before they can design an engine? Each of these factories had some special processes to build their own unique part, and if one process for one of these components were screwed up, (or say wrongly reverse engineered), then the project WOUDL BE screwed.
Having spend so many hours in National Archives looking through historic documents, I cannot explain to anyone HOW MUCH KNOWLEDGE was stolen from the NAZIs. Also, the Brits, Froggies (French), and the Yanks shared all this information with one another during the cold war against the Russians.
Russians on the hand did also get quite a chunk of the Nazis research but went on a TRIAL AND ERROR basis rather than just sharing with allies. Russians and French engineers are the best engineers I have ever worked with (and Jews). They are problem solvers with incredible amount of creativity. However, Germans are innovators, not just problem solvers. They get bored as soon as they innovated and want to move on to the next big idea.
So just knowing material engineering, or having access to alloys, is not enough. More than anything a country needs a CONSISTENT R&D ... todays world is different than when I came out of college. RR is working hard to produce 3D metal printing (completely not just parts or pieces) of an entire engine, so is Snecma offshoot, or Safran, or GE, so is PW and so is everyone else (wannabe's).
Ceramic Matrix Composites and machining is really the way everyone is going. Huge investment in this area. But you get 1 process wrong (for instance, final covering layer), and your engine is worthless.
There needs to be a huge infrastructure CONTINOUSLY feeding this beast if you want to be a leading edge or a leading edge follower. It is an INVESTMENT like any other investment (e.g. medical industry, petrochemicals, construction and high rises, etc. ). Iran needs the capital to invest. It does not have it.
Item (3) and (4), Iran can build the parts, to a more or less, ok degree. Depends on what specifically we are talking about. Single crystals is no problem for Iran. In fact I use to talk to one of their leading engineers in one of their factories doing pretty surprising things, but then he was not getting his salary (for months) and the owner was an asswipe kid who knew nothing, had inherited the business, and he went to China to get his 2nd PHD in materials engineering (turbine blade manufacturing) with $6K a month salary (yes as a student). Unfortunately, during Covid he went back to Iran to see his friends and now he is stuck there for 1 year now. Funny how life works.
Item (5) is, I believe, the easiest for Iran. Iranian technicians and factory workers are very different than the engineers I worked with in U.K. that came back to work from lunch completely plastered. Iranian factory workers still have PRIDE. U.K. was, ummmm - what can I say.
PeeD posted earlier that Iran can make all blades, to be precise, "Iran is capable to do it, see MAPNA turbines". This is not actually true. Iran Mapna management team who use to live and work in Germany and have German citizenship (many of them, some Austrian), receive certain pieces and finish or replace with older technologies. Iran CANNOT build some of the high-tech blades and blisks COMPLTELY on its own. That one I can assure you of. My family members are involved in Germany, so I cannot talk about this too much.
But older technologies, yes they can. Not so efficient as SGT-800, not even close, and not same level of reliability and performance and durability and automation control systems or sensors. But yes, it is great that Mapna is doing such level turbines in addition to 100s of wind turbines and other things they are doing in the auto industry.
I believe with all my heart that Iran can however build an engine like AL21 and/or R35. It would take a few years, the infrastructure for such a 3rd gen engine can be put together (with some help from Russia) within 9 or 10 months - of course with 100% POLITICAL WILL.
Thank you for your post. Sorry with delays. I don't always come to this forum, as I get busy with work.