New Delhi (Sputnik): India is looking to begin mass production of the indigenously developed multi-purpose light transport aircraft SARAS by the second half of this year. The aircraft was successfully test flown for the second time on Wednesday. This was the second of 20 test flights planned for the SARAS PT1N, before freezing the production version.
"The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 percent indigenous content, will be around INR 40-45 crore ($6.25-7 million) as against INR 60-70 crore ($9.3-11 million) for imported ones and has far more benefits than what the imported aircraft offer," Harsh Vardhan, India's Minister for Science & Technology said.
#SARAS-MK2 will cost 30-35% less than imported versions and has far more advantages too. India needs 120-160 aircraft in this genre–both civil and military versions–in the next 10 years. Hope to start commercial production in 3-4 years. @PMOIndia, @CSIR_IND, @MinScTechGoI pic.twitter.com/nRlo8TRhgq— Dr. Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) February 21, 2018
The project was initially conceived in the 1990s as a joint project between India and Russia. However, India's National Aeronautics Ltd (NAL) decided to go solo with the 14-seater civil aircraft program when the Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes, backed out due to a financial crisis.
The project was dumped by the previous government, after an accident during a test flight in 2009. It was revived more than five years later by the Narendra Modi government. The aircraft has since undergone several design modifications and improvements, like 2x1200 hp engines and 104-inch diameter propeller, assembles to cater to the second segment climb gradient requirements, improved flight control system, rudder area, and indigenously developed stall warning system, etc. India needs 120-160 aircraft of this genre — both civilian and military versions — in the next 10 years.
#SARAS-MK2 will be the first indigenous light transport aircraft. It will be a 19-seater and production model design is expected to be frozen by July this year after evaluation of system performance in about 20 flights. @PMOIndia, @CSIR_IND, @MinScTechGoI pic.twitter.com/uDF4NxIswl
— Dr. Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) February 21, 2018
"Its successful development will be one of the game changers in the history of civil aviation in India," Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
The NAL claims that the upgraded SARAS Mk2 version (19 seaters) will be at least 500 kilograms lighter than the current version which weighs around 7100 kilograms. It will have unique features, like high cruise speed, lower fuel consumption, short landing and take-off distances, low cabin noise, operable from high-altitude and hot airfields, with a pressurized cabin, operable from semi-prepared airfield and low acquisition and maintenance cost.