The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will collaborate with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to produce an indigenous engine for the SARAS light passenger aircraft being developed by it.

“We will be taking up the project jointly. Designing and developing an aero-engine is a highly complex task,” Dr Shekhar C Mande, Director General, CSIR, said during his visit here. “Apart from the power plants, all major systems of the SARAS are indigenous,” he added.

The DRDO has been developing the Kaveri engine that was initially meant for the Light Combat Aircraft since the mid-80s, but has not been successful. While some technologies and components were validated, there were problems with some. While various types of Aero-engines have been produced under licence in India, an indigenous engine has not been developed. According to some experts, developing a turboprop for a transport aircraft is less complex than developing a jet engine for a fighter.

The prototype version of the SARAS, being developed by the CSIR’s National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL), is powered by two Canadian Pratt and Whitney PT6A turboprop engines, that are not only mounted on the rear of the fuselage instead of the wings, but also face rearwards.

“The 14-passenger SARAS plane, which is undergoing flight trials, will also have the capability to taxi in reverse, a feature that is not very common in aircraft. In the IAF’s inventory, the American C-17 strategic freighter and the German Dornier Do-228 have this feature. Taxing in reverse require the jet blast from the engines to be directed forwards but it has technical, environmental and safety concerns when operating in the vicinity of aerodrome terminals or structures.

The NAL would be conducting 20 test flights of the SARAS before the design is frozen and production would be undertaken by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The IAF has committed to procure 15 aircraft.

Dr Mande, who is a member of Gaganyaan National Advisory Council, the steering body for ISRO’s manned space mission, said the NAL was also deeply involved in testing an devaluating many of the launch vehicle’s components.