The government needs to be the “launch customer” to make Saras Mk2 commercially viable, the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL), which has developed the first indigenous light transport aircraft, told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology.
The 19-seater aircraft, developed with a target cost of ₹50 crore, is at least 20-25% lower in cost than other aircraft in the similar category.
The aircraft has been in the making for long. The first prototype flew in 2004. But without the initial push from the government, the manufacturing capacity required for commercial production could not be set up, the NAL said.
On a five-day tour of ISRO facilities from December 25 to 30, the committee members visited the NAL on December 28 and were briefed about the aircraft. Later, NAL Director Jitendra J. Jadhav sent a report on the plan for commercial production. Committee chairperson and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh forwarded the report to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
“Our job is to study and recommend. We cannot and should not step into the domain of the executive,” Mr. Ramesh said, explaining why he forwarded the report to Mr. Naidu.
Presently, the NAL has only one order from the Indian Air Force for 15 aircraft.
Connectivity plans ::
The NAL has been pitching SARAS Mk-2 for the government’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), since it has the capacity to operate in “ill-equipped”, “semi-prepared” and “unpaved airstrips”. The scheme, launched in October 2016, is aimed at linking up areas that have no air connectivity.
The NAL has said in its report to Mr. Ramesh that the government should be the “launch customer” and place an order for at least 50-60 aircraft, which can be used for VIP services or tackling emergencies in times of natural calamities.
“With the firm commitment for procurement from the government, industries will come forward to set up manufacturing infrastructure. This will also push the growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises and allied service sector,” Mr. Jadhav said in his report.