New Delhi: At a high profile meet in New Delhi an impressive gathering of Indian defence and civil aerospace authorities took the first steps in launching the Indian Regional Transport Aircraft (IRTA). The ambitious project aims to design and eventually manufacture a cheap, rugged, easy to maintain 70-110 seater civilian aircraft in a decades time.
Essentially a civil regional aircraft, the design could have military variants as well.
The meeting was chaired by AK Antony, defence minister. ''We are shortly going to send a spacecraft to the Moon and we are still importing civil aircraft. India has all the capabilities and we must make them a reality,'' he said.
The programme will complement two other ambitious programmes - one related to next generation fighter aircraft and another to a medium-lift military transport plane intended to replace the Indian military's rapidly ageing medium-haul aircraft, such as the An-32.
For both programmes India has tied up with Russia. While the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) is to be jointly developed in collaboration with the Sukhoi design bureau and the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) the on again-off again military transport project is likely to get firm shape at a meeting with Alexsei Fedorov, chief of the United Aircraft Corporation, the umbrella company of Russia's aviation industry.
Fedorov is arriving here at the end of the month to finalise plans in this regard.
Also in attendance were the who's who of the Indian aerospace universe, space commission chairman Madhavan Nair, National Aerospace Laboratories' Kota Harinarayana and AR Upadhyaya, Aeronautical Development Agency director PS Subramaniam, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) chairman Ashok Baweja as well as representatives of the Defence Research & Development Organisation and Air India.
Lending gravity to the meet with their attendance, and reflecting the national importance attached to it, were government functionaries such as principal secretary to the prime minister TKA Nair, defence secretary Vijay Singh, civil aviation secretary M Nambiar, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research director general Samir Brahmachari.
It is being given to understand that a team has been entrusted the task of developing project modalities, including design, division of work , funding, etc, and that it will soon submit a detailed project report.
The project will be developed under the aegis of the ministry of defence.
According to sources, the time period of development to certification of the aircraft has been estimated at six years, with the manufacturing phase expected to take an additional four to six years.
The meeting expressed the faith that the country had the technical base, as also the resources, to develop an aircraft of this size for both the domestic and the international markets.
Development cost has been pegged at Rs4,000 crore.