Indian Air Force to induct 15 indigenous Saras aircrafts

The Saras, the first Indian multi-purpose civilian aircraft in the light transport aircraft category and developed by the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, has been successfully test flown for a second time

February 21, 2018

After the Saras project was revived by the present Central Government, NAL incorporated design modifications and improvements on the SARAS PT 1 model.

The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 per cent locally sourced content, will be around US$7 million as against US$10 million for for imported ones.

CSIR-NAL proposes to get SARAS-Mk 2 certified initially for military and subsequently for civil version with India needing up to 160 aircraft in the next decade.

The cost of development and certification of Saras Mk2 will be around US$92.8 million with a time period of about 2 to 3 years, as per Director General of CSIR.

Indian Air Force has decided to induct 15 indigenous Saras aircrafts into its fleet. The Saras, the first Indian multi-purpose civilian aircraft in the light transport aircraft category, has been developed by the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). Air Force’s decision to induct the aircraft follows its second successful test flight. The first successful test was carried out on January 24, this year. About 20 test flights have been planned for SARAS PT1N, before freezing the production version. According to NAL, the final production model of the light transport aircraft is expected to be ready by June-July.
The project was dropped by the previous government, after an accident during test flight in 2009. “Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had exonerated the aircraft from any design flaw or poor-quality production, no effort was made to revive the project,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, India’s Science and Technology Minister, at the flight event. “The credit for reviving the indigenous project goes to the present government headed by Narendra Modi, who had given a thrust to “Make in India” mission. It is the culmination of joint team efforts of ASTE, DGAQA, CEMILAC and HAL,” he added.

Make in India revived Saras

After the project was revived by the present government, NAL has incorporated design modifications and improvements on the SARAS PT 1 model. Dr Vardhan said that CSIR-NAL proposes to get the SARAS-Mk 2 version certified initially for military and subsequently for civil version. Saras is anticipated to be 20-25 per cent cheaper than any imported aircraft in the same category. The improved version will be a 19-seater aircraft instead of 14-seater. The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 per cent locally sourced content, will be around US$7 million as against US$10 million for for imported ones.
The Indian aircraft will have far more benefits than what the imported aircraft offer, Dr Vardhan noted. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been identified as the production agency for the military version of SARAS, while the production of civil version will be given to identified private industries. India needs 120-160 aircraft in this genre – both civil and military versions – in the next 10 years. SARAS Mk 2 will be ideal for commuter connectivity under Government of India’s UDAAN Scheme for variety of applications like air taxi, disaster management, border patrol, ambulance and other community services.

New era for Indian civil aviation

A successful development of this aircraft will be one of the game changers in the history of civil aviation in  India. The aircrafts currently available in the 19-seater category in the international market are of 1970’s technology, such as Beechcraft 19000D, Dornier-228 and Embraer EMB 110. They have higher fuel consumption, lower speeds, unpressurised cabin, high operating cost and unsuitable for operations from hot and high-altitude airfields. After India began its light transport aircraft project, countries like Russia, China, USA, Indonesia and Poland have launched new programmes for next generation 19-seater aircraft.
The upgraded Saras Mk2 version has considerable drag/weight reduction with unique features like high cruise speed, lower fuel consumption, short landing and take-off distance, low cabin noise, operable from high and hot airfield, with pressurized cabin, operable from semi prepared airfield and low acquisition and maintenance cost. Director General of CSIR Dr Girish Sahni said that the cost of development and certification of Saras Mk2 will be around US$92.8 million with a time period of about 2 to 3 years.