NAL to revive Saras
National Aeronautics Limited (NAL) is to revive Saras transport aircraft project for IAF.Creative Commons/johnxxx84

The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) is planning to develop an indigenous 70-seater aircraft eyeing the domestic aviation market which is picking up pace especially in Tier II and Tier III cities. Currently, government-owned NAL is also developing a 19-seater indigenous light transport aircraft 'Saras Mk2'. Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan laid the foundation for NAL's system check and aircraft integration facilities and inaugurated smart aerospace composite manufacturing facility in Bengaluru.

"Today itself they have started talking to me to get the permissions from and meetings with civil aviation ministry for their future plan of the 70-seater. That is also very heartening to know." Harsh Vardhan said. 

"Seventy-seater has always been in the long-term vision and since they have mentioned about this today we will have to bring the civil aviation ministry on board. We have to take the approval of the Prime Minister's office. Also, we will have to take scientists also on board, so as a science and technology minister I will facilitate them to move in the right direction," he added. 

The Economic Times reported that NAL director Jitendra J Jadhav said that since NAL already has a fair amount of experience, it would go ahead with designing the aircraft.

Dr. Harshvardhan at NAL facility in Bengaluru
Dr. Harshvardhan at NAL facility in BengaluruCredit: Twitter

"First, we will have to get in-principle approval from Ministry of Science and Technology, and Civil Aviation, also from Ministry of Finance, then we can finish design phase one-and-a-half year from that, which will be the preliminary design phase. Then we will submit it to the government, once the government sanctions, we will develop," said Jadhav.

NAL, which operates under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is presently under the process of designing and certification of Saras Mk2, a twin-engine turboprop 19-seater transport aircraft to offer connectivity to small cities.

As informed by NAL director, NAL has developed a better and advanced version of Saras Mk2. The preproduction standard testing of the 19-seater aircraft is already over and the aircraft is likely to go under production by 2025.

The NAL is eyeing production of at least 100 aircraft to cater to the demands of the domestic aviation market. Moreover, the Indian Airforce has also requested for 15 such aircraft initially and may order another 45 if required. The cost of production of Saras Mk2 is expected to be around Rs. 45 crore, which is much lower than foreign aircraft of similar capability that may cost over Rs 70 crore.