Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) said at the show that it has signed "within the last week" a deal with two Russian manufacturers for joint design, development and co-production of a multi-role transport aircraft. The 100-seat, 15-20t aircraft will be developed with Ilyushin Aviation Complex and Irkutsk Aviation Production Organisation. With a range of 2,500-2,600km (1,350-1,400nm) depending on cruise speed, the aircraft will reach a cruise speed of 850km/h (460kt). HAL says the first aircraft will be delivered in seven years.

Many observers will be sceptical about the time frame. HAL's Light Combat Aircraft which made its maiden flight in January this year has been in development for 17 years. But chairman Krishnadas Nair, speaking in Paris, maintains HAL is on course to have the second prototype flying in July. And he is adamant that the production aircraft will still fly with the indigenous Kaveri engine being developed by India¹s Gas Turbine Research Establishment. The prototype has fitted with a General Electric F404.

Nair is hoping for progress here on his plan to find a European joint venture partner and confident that ongoing liberalisation in India will attract more multinational investment. "Indian law now allows 26% foreign holding in Indian companies. For four or five years now it's been our philosophy to encourage co-production and joint ventures. We want to move to partnership from the existing buyer-seller one."

He believes the explosion of hi-tech business in the south of India in particular will benefit the aviation industry. "The rate of development of IT skills in and around Bangalore is stimulating other activity. GE has an R&D centre in the city. That sort of investment has long term benefits to the economy and the aviation sector in particular."

HAL is using the show to raise awareness of two other new projects, an intermediate jet trainer that it says will make its first flight next year and the series production of the Advanced Light Helicopter. Deliveries to the armed services are scheduled for later this year.

Source: Flight Daily News