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India is currently in the process of developing its own 72-seater aircraft.

India is currently in the process of developing its own 72-seater aircraft.

India stands on the cusp of pioneering its aircraft development, a potential reality in the near future. With the Indian aviation market poised to become one of the world’s top five largest markets, there’s a burgeoning demand for carriers like Indigo, Air India, and Akasa. Together, they’ve placed orders for over 1400 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, marking one of the highest orders in the aviation industry.

‘Made in India’ passenger aircraft.

To transform the dream of a ‘Made in India’ passenger aircraft into reality and propel the local aerospace ecosystem, India requires a comprehensive National Aerospace Policy. Notably, Airbus and Boeing have yet to establish final aircraft assembly lines (FALs) within India, spurred by the significant orders received.

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India has exerted considerable pressure to establish assembly lines domestically, mirroring the success of similar initiatives abroad. With its aviation market growing at an unprecedented rate, India boasts the largest order book for new aircraft, estimated at a staggering $70 billion over the next decade. Existing airports bustle with travelers while new ones are either under construction or in the planning phase.

The timeline for India to realize the Prime Minister’s vision of a Made in India commercial aircraft hinges on various factors. Leveraging its prowess in exporting IT services and aerospace technologies, India is poised for the next stage of development.

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The success rate of China’s C919 and ARJ21.


In the realm of commercial aerospace manufacturing, Europe and the US have long held the reins, but China has emerged as a formidable contender in recent years. China’s journey began in 2002 with the ARJ21, a regional jet, and later the C919, a larger narrow-body aircraft. While the ARJ21 encountered delays and is seen as a modest achievement, the C919 boasts over one thousand orders, marking a significant success.

Both programs heavily rely on foreign technologies sourced from global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), underscoring the importance of collaborations and creating an appealing environment for foreign companies to operate within China.

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Indian HAL has 80 years of history.

India, too, boasts a rapidly growing aerospace sector that traces its roots back to pre-independence times, predating China’s endeavors by over 60 years. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), initially established as Hindustan Aircraft Ltd in 1940, spearheaded this journey. Given its early establishment, India was poised to become a major player in aerospace manufacturing.

HAL shoulders much of the responsibility for developing aircraft for defense purposes, including the TEJAS, attack and multirole helicopters, trainer aircraft, and notably, the Dornier D228, a passenger version aircraft representing a significant breakthrough for the Indian Aerospace Industry. Demand for helicopters is also on the rise, further showcasing India’s potential in the aerospace domain.

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India’s aviation market Demand.


One drawback in the defense sector is the inherent uncertainty surrounding government budgets and delays in allocating funds for helicopter purchases. On the civilian front, aircraft demand remains consistently high, especially when they meet passenger needs and receive regular approvals from authorities.

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India’s aviation market is distinct, calling for unique aircraft programs. With a high density of flyers, there’s a prevalent preference for short-haul flights from rural areas to major cities. As the air travel network expands to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, the number of operational airports is expected to surge from the current 140 to 230-240.

The demand for smaller aircraft, particularly for serving Tier 1-3 cities, is paramount for airlines. While the Dornier aircraft has been utilized for some routes, its availability limitations and noise levels have raised concerns. Jet planes emerge as preferable options for Indian travelers due to their efficiency and comfort, aligning better with the needs of airlines.

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Establishing a sustainable aircraft program requires long-term commitment and substantial risk capital, often necessitating government support akin to what’s observed in developed markets. For instance, COMAC, over its lifetime, received significant state-related support ranging from $49-72 billion, while Airbus, over the years, obtained $22 billion from the EU.

Encouraging private investment is crucial for fostering growth in the aerospace sector and nurturing indigenous aircraft development in India. Such initiatives could significantly bolster the country’s aviation industry and enhance its self-reliance in this critical domain.

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Indian Regional Jet (IRJ).


Introducing the Indian Regional Jet (IRJ), a cutting-edge project led by India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and set to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This regional airliner aims to redefine air travel with its design, offering a capacity of 80–100 passengers. The base model, known as the RTA-70, will boast 80–90 seats while distinguishing itself with a cost that’s 20 percent lower than its global counterparts.

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Development is well underway, with plans for a 90-seater variant expected to take flight by 2026. This next-generation aircraft promises impressive specs, including a range of 1,350 nm (2,500 km), and requiring a take-off and landing field length of 900m (2,950 ft). With dimensions of 28.6m in length and a wingspan of 29.4m, it reaches a service ceiling of 30,000 ft and cruises at 300kt, all while meeting Stage 4 noise criteria.

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Saras Aircraft.

Meanwhile, NAL’s innovative spirit extends to the NAL Saras, another project in the works. Already, prototypes like the Mark1 and its successor, the second version dubbed ‘Mark 2,’ are pushing boundaries. The Saras Mark 2 showcases versatility, offering ranges of 600 km with 19 passengers, 1,200 km with 14 passengers, and an impressive 2,000 km with eight passengers. With a top cruise speed exceeding 600 km/h and an endurance of six hours, it’s a game-changer.

Weights
Max. take-off : 7600 kg (16755 lb)
Operating empty wt. : 5100 kg (11244 lb)
Max. fuel weight : 1832 kg (4039 lb)
Max. pay load : 1710 kg (3770 lb)

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Power plant
SARAS is powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada.
PT6A-67A turbo-prop engines (flat rated to 1200 shp)
driving 2.6 m diameter 5 bladed constant speed propellers
at 1700 rpm in a Tractor configuration.
Main dimensions
Span : 18 m (59.05 ft)
Length : 17.3 m (56.8 ft)
Height : 5.5 m (18 ft)

Performance (ISA)
Take-off distance : 820 m (2690 ft)
Landing distance : 665 m (2182 ft)
Max. rate of climb : 10 m/s (1980 ft/min)
Max. range* (19 pax) : 750 km (405 nm)
Max. range* (10 pax) : 2350 km (1270 nm)
Ferry range* : 2400 km (1295 nm)
Max. cruise speed : 485 km/hr (260 Kts)
Endurance : 6 hours . With 45 min reserve

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Equipped with propeller engines initially, the Saras is poised for future upgrades to jet engines if project requirements align. NAL’s ambition shines through in its cost-effective approach, targeting ₹50 crore per unit for the Saras Mk2, undercutting the ₹55 crore Dornier 228 with its unpressurized cabin and altitude restrictions. Anticipating government support, NAL aims to secure orders for 50-60 units to ensure manufacturing viability, with an initial order of 15 aircraft from the Indian Air Force potentially expanding to 120–140 units in the coming years.

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Aerospace

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber
Image:USAF

The United States Air Force (USAF) has unveiled the first photographs of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber in flight.

These images were captured during test flights conducted by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant milestone in the development of this sixth-generation aircraft.

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Currently undergoing flight tests in California, the B-21 Raider represents the next generation of stealth bombers. With an estimated cost of around $700 million per aircraft, the B-21 Raider is poised to become a crucial component of the USAF’s arsenal for conventional Long Range Strike missions.

According to Air Force briefings, the B-21 Raider will form part of a comprehensive family of systems, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities, electronic warfare, communication systems, and more. Notably, the bomber will be nuclear-capable and adaptable for both manned and unmanned operations.

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It boasts the flexibility to deploy a wide array of stand-off and direct-attack munitions, ensuring versatility in various combat scenarios. One of the B-21’s distinguishing features is its extensive integration of digital technology, as highlighted in discussions held during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Designed with an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider is built to swiftly incorporate emerging technologies, ensuring its effectiveness against evolving threats over time. The B-21 Raider is slated to replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, bolstering US national security objectives and providing reassurance to allies and partners worldwide.

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Aurora Flight Sciences Unveils Innovative X-Plane Design

Aurora Flight Sciences Unveils Innovative X-Plane Design

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, has recently completed the conceptual design review for a groundbreaking high-speed, vertical lift X-plane.

This aircraft, part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT), aims to demonstrate key technologies and integrated concepts that combine high speed with runway independence.

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Aurora’s design features a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator integrated into a blended wing body platform. This innovative approach merges the agility of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with exceptional speed capabilities.

The team is focused on ensuring the program’s success by setting the stage for successful flight demonstrations, showcasing a transformative capability for air mobility and Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions.

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New renderings of the fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator show three lift fans, a more refined composite exterior, and an uncrewed cockpit. The decision to use three lift fans simplifies the demonstrator, streamlining its path to flight testing. This FIW technology can be scaled to incorporate four or more lift fans to meet future aircraft requirements, potentially leading to a new family of systems.

Additionally, while the current demonstrator is uncrewed to facilitate testing and reduce risk, the FIW technology is fully adaptable to crewed aircraft. Aurora’s concept is designed to meet or exceed DARPA’s challenging program objectives. The blended wing body platform is capable of a 450-knot cruise speed, and the embedded lift fans with integrated covers enable a smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

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The design also utilizes existing engine solutions, reducing development risks and timelines. Besides VTOL, the aircraft can perform short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), super short take-off and landing (SSTOL), and conventional take-off and landing.

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Aerospace

China Developing Comac C939 Wide Body Aircraft to Compete with A350 and B777

China Developing Comac C939 Wide Body Aircraft to Compete with A350 and B777


China’s Comac aircraft company is currently underway with the development of its own wide-body aircraft, the C939, positioned to compete with industry stalwarts like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 in the future. This strategic move by Comac involves crafting the next iteration with enhanced capacity and extended range capabilities, marking a significant leap forward in technological advancement compared to the current C919 aircraft.

Air China has inked a substantial deal worth a staggering $10.8 billion, based on list prices, to acquire 100 Comac C919 jets, signaling a strong vote of confidence in the domestic challenger to aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing.

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China Comac C919 Total Order

With both China Southern and Air China combining orders for nearly 200 aircraft, the prospects for the new C919 aircraft appear increasingly promising for future fleet growth. To date, Comac has garnered orders for nearly 1,100 aircraft.

China is contemplating the development of another wide-body aircraft, the C939, poised to significantly bolster the aerospace industry in China.

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COMAC has initiated work on the C939, a new wide-body airliner. While design concepts have been formulated, it will still take several years before a prototype materializes, according to reports from the South China Morning Post, citing anonymous sources.

Initially intended to be a joint venture with Russia, plans were halted due to Russia’s decision to safeguard its copyrights and technological advancements within its borders. Consequently, collaboration between China and Russia on aircraft development was discontinued. Sources suggest that China is vigorously pursuing new avenues for the independent development of its own wide-body aircraft, crucial for accommodating larger passenger capacities and extended flight ranges.

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Comac C939 competes with Boeing 777 and A350

Information regarding the program remains limited. COMAC has refrained from commenting on the development of the new aircraft type, stating that official announcements will be made in due course. Nevertheless, the C939 could potentially accommodate up to 390 passengers, positioning it to compete with the largest Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft.

In addition to the prospective C939, COMAC is already advancing with the development of another widebody aircraft, known as the C929. This aircraft is poised to rival the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330, boasting 280 seats and a range approaching 6,500 nautical miles.

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Since obtaining certification in late 2022, the COMAC C919 has been operational, accumulating nearly 1,000 firm orders, predominantly from Chinese-owned airlines and leasing companies.

With multiple widebody aircraft in the pipeline, COMAC stands to achieve parity with the two leading international aircraft manufacturers. Boeing, with its 777 and 787 models, and Airbus, with the A330neo and A350, both have a comparable range of offerings. However, Boeing’s aircraft are encountering delays and production challenges despite substantial orders, while the A350 is performing commendably, though the A330neo’s order intake has not met initial projections.

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How much does C919 cost?

China is under pressure to fulfill the current orders for the C919 aircraft, prompting plans to expand production facilities across various regions within the country. The aim is to ramp up production capacity for C919 planes to 150 aircraft annually over the next five years. The latest reports indicate that the C919 is priced around $99 million, comparable to the price of Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 aircraft, with expectations for further price reductions in the future.

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While the C919 has yet to be certified in major aviation markets outside of China, only four have been delivered thus far. In the long term, COMAC’s widebody aircraft will vie for global competitiveness. One potential benefit of COMAC aircraft could be in reducing China’s reliance on Western aircraft manufacturers. However, this shift won’t happen immediately; the current delivery rate of four aircraft in nearly 18 months is not sustainable, and both Airbus and Boeing have established manufacturing facilities in China to cater to its sizable market.

Nevertheless, assuming COMAC addresses the issues impeding deliveries, there’s a plausible scenario where the manufacturer assumes a significant role, particularly as China’s aviation market continues to expand.

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As the C939 progresses through its development stages, more details are expected to emerge. Comparisons between official specifications of the C929 and C939 will be noteworthy, as will the initial orders for each aircraft type. However, it’s anticipated that neither will undergo test flights or enter into service for several years.

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