Australia's GippsAero, owned by Indian company Mahindra Aerospace, hopes to deliver the first GA10 Airvan in the second half of 2018, with a key focus being the type's capability as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.

Project manager George Morgan says the single-engined turboprop's stablemate, the piston-powered GA8, has been effective in this role, and the GA10 is seeing similar levels of interest.

While he declines to detail customers, the first delivery is due to take place later this year.

In the ISR configuration, the aircraft can carry an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor ball in a specially modified baggage bay underneath the aircraft. The ball is retracted during take-off and landing, and extended only for use when the aircraft reaches its target area.

Morgan says this arrangement is superior to placing the pod under a wing, as it allows the aircraft to monitor the target from different angles. An underwing EO/IR pod requires the aircraft to circle the target, potentially alerting a party on the ground that it is being observed. On both the GA8 and GA10, the ball is extended below the landing struts, offering an unobstructed 360° view.

Morgan reiterates that the GA10 fills a niche below the Quest Kodiak 100 and Cessna 208 Caravan, both of which are powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop engine, providing 675-700hp (503-522kW). The GA10 is powered by the 451hp Rolls-Royce M250-B17F/2.

"The engine largely determines the capabilities of the aircraft, and the capabilities of the aircraft largely determine the engine," says Morgan.

He says that while the GA10 is somewhat smaller than its two rivals, the M250 uses considerably less fuel.

Morgan also confirms that Hartzell has been selected to supply a three-bladed, composite propeller with a steel leading edge for the GA10.

A composite propeller will save significant weight at the front of the aircraft compared with the current aluminium component. Installing the new propeller, however, will entail significant paperwork relating to certification, Morgan notes.

At present, there are only two GA10s flying: a prototype and the first production aircraft. Work to integrate the composite propeller will take place on the flight-test article.

Morgan says another key potential market is India, given the strength of the Mahindra Group in the sub-continent. In addition to having approvals in both Australia and the United States, the GA10 is also certificated in India.