July 9, 2009, New Delhi -- Despite a recent accident which claimed the lives of three pilots, and its expensive price tag of $8 million, India’s homegrown multi-role “Saras” aircraft will still be acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy, reports India Defence Online.
The prototype of the Saras aircraft was being developed by the Bangalore based state-owned National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) had crashed recently and claimed three lives and no official reason was cited. The inquiry commission appointed by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is yet to give its report on the Saras crash.
According to NAL officials, the second prototype of the 14-seater Saras aircraft had been fitted with a high performance engine and its weight had been considerably reduced said a NAL scientist. The weight had been reduced after fine-tuning the aircraft’s structural design, more use of composites and optimization of margins and electrical fittings. The reduction in the weight of the second prototype by over 500 kilograms from the first prototype of 5118 kilograms was also matched with a high thrust engine from Pratt and Whitney, said NAL officials.
NAL has also identified Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)’s facility at Kanpur as its production partner for the 14-seater aircraft because of HAL’s expertise manufacturing similar aircraft in the past. NAL is also expecting clearance from the DGCA soon on the aircraft crash issue and will proceed with the transfer of technology to HAL and commence serial production.
Sources said that the IAF is planning to place an order for as many as 15 Saras aircraft which can replace its 23-strong Dornier (Do) 228 fleet used for a variety of roles, including transporting men and material and para dropping.
The “Saras” project was launched in 1991 and India has spent close to $40 million on it. Saras is a multi-role aircraft for executive transport, light package carrier, remote sensing and aerial research service, Coast Guard, border patrolling, air ambulance and other community services. Capable of carrying a weight on 1,200 kilograms which can be extended upto 1,500 kilograms, the Saras aircraft is equipped with two rear-mounted turbo-prop Pratt and Whitney engines.
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