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Saras completes second test flight successfully

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India's indigenous light transport aircraft Saras. Photo: Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Twitter

BEGALURU (PTI): India's indigenous light transport aircraft Saras was successfully test flown for a second time here, Union Science and Technology minister Harsh Vardhan has said.

The production model design is expected to be ready by June-July this year, he said.

The test flight on Wednesday, commanded by Wing Commander U P Singh, Group Captain R V Panicker and Group Captain K P Bhat of the Indian Air Force (Aircraft and System Testing Establishment), lasted 25 minutes, Vardhan said.

The flight took off from the HAL's airport here.

"This was the second of the 20 test flights planned for Saras PT1N, before freezing the production version...," he told reporters here.

The first successful test was carried out on January 24 this year.

The design and development of the aircraft is being done by the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, he said.

The Indian Air Force has committed to induct 15 such aircraft initially, Vardhan said.

CSIR-NAL proposes to get the SARAS-Mk 2 version certified initially for military and subsequently for civil version, he said.

Saras will be 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than any imported aircraft in the same category and it will be a 19-seater aircraft instead of 14-seater, Vardhan said.

"The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 per cent indigenous content, will be around Rs 40 to Rs 45 crore as against Rs 60 to Rs 70 crore for imported ones and has far more benefits than what the imported aircraft offers," he said.

The HAL has been identified as the production agency for the military version of Saras, while production of the civil version will be given to identified private industries.

"We are in talks with the Tatas, Mahindra and Reliance companies. We have not yet finalised any of the private companies. Soon we will do it," he said.

India needs 120 to 160 civil and military versions of the aircraft in this genre in the next 10 years, Vardhan said.

SARAS Mk 2 will be ideal for commuter connectivity under the Centre's UDAAN Scheme for variety of applications like air taxi, aerial search and survey, executive transport, disaster management, border patrol, coast guard, ambulance and other community services, Vardhan said.

"Its successful development will be one of the game changers in the history of civil aviation in India," he said.

The project was dumped by the previous government, after an accident during the test flight in 2009, Vardhan said.

"Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had exonerated the aircraft from any design flaw or poor-quality production, no effort was made to revive the project," he added.

The credit for reviving the indigenous project goes to the present government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had given a thrust to the 'Make in India' mission and the team of scientists and engineers under the leadership of J Jadhav, the minister said.

"It is the culmination of joint team efforts of ASTE, DGAQA, CEMILAC and HAL," he added.

After the project was revived by the present government, NAL has incorporated design modifications and improvements on the Saras PT 1 model, like 2x1200 shp engines, among other things, Vardhan said.

CSIR Director General Girish Saini said the cost of development and certification of Saras Mk2 will be around Rs 600 crore with a time period of about 2 to 3 years.

Air Vice Marshal Sandeep Singh said the IAF was committed to testing and thereafter inducting the first indigenously designed and manufactured Light Transport Aircraft.

"IAF is fully supporting this programme and the design and configuration of the new version of SARAS would be frozen soon," he added.

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