The indigenous aircraft programme has got a boost with the Indian Air Force planning to induct the light transport aircraft Saras into its fleet.
The IAF is in the process of placing orders for acquiring 15 aircraft developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bangalore, official sources said.
The IAF order is considered to be a shot in the arm for NAL. A prototype of the 14-seater aircraft had crashed during a test flight in March, killing three persons onboard.
"The IAF has already finalised that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be manufacturing the aircraft and the firm order will be placed with the NAL by year-end," a source said.
This transport aircraft has suffered delays for a decade due to design flaws, an underpowered engine, excess take-off weight and non-availability of components following the 1998 sanctions imposed by the US.
However, when contacted, NAL Director A R Upadhya said that the new aircraft will have better engines that pack more power and engineers have also succeeded in reducing the total weight of the aircraft by 500 kg.
The earlier prototypes were heavier by at least 500 kg, thus leading to operational difficulties.
Upadhya said that a Commission of Inquiry has been investigating into the crash of the Saras prototype and the report is expected in another three weeks.