India Inks World's Largest Microlight Aircraft Deal With Slovenian Firm
By Arming India Correspondent
NEW DELHI, OCT.10/12, 2015:
India created aviation history on Oct.12, 2015 when it signed what was probably the world's largest single deal for microlight aircraft. Arming India was the first to exclusively report the entire details of this deal on Oct.10, 2015, two days ahead of its signing itself.
India's armed forces will get 194 microlight aircraft from Slovenian company Pipistrel Aircraft, for use by its National Cadet Corps (NCC), Air Force and Navy. The deal is worth Rs.130 crore ($20 million), government and industry sources told Arming India, while the Indian Air Force, the lead agency for the procurement, said it was worth Rs.105.5 crore.
"The microlight aircraft chosen for purchase is the Pipistrel Aircraft's Virus SW80," a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official said. "It is tentatively christened the 'Garuda' in the Indian service," he said.
Pipistrel General Manager Ivo Bascarol said the contract also involved a possible repeat order for 97 more aircraft. He also said considering the size of this deal, Pipistrel was thinking of setting up manufacturing facilities for this aircraft in India.
The Virus SW80 had competed with 11 other aircraft over four years before winning the tender. The Pipistrel aircraft was extensively tested by the IAF all over the country, exposing it to high altitudes, extreme cold weather terrain such as Leh and Kargil, apart from island territories like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and extreme hot weathers in Rajasthan.
The IAF and the Navy require the aircraft in a bird reconnaissance roles, the Air Force said, adding that the deliveries are slated to begin in a year from now. Boscarol said the deliveries would be done ahead of schedule and the company would continue to supply spares for the aircraft for another 10 years after delivery.
The Indian government nod for buying the microlight aircraft came in July 2015 at the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting chaired by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.
At that meeting, the DAC had given the final approval for the 194-plane deal, but had broken up the entire contract into two. The first part of the contract would take care of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) requirement - pending for nearly 10 years now - of 110 microlight for training air wing cadets. The second part of the deal is for supplying 84 of these microlight aircraft to the IAF and the Indian Navy. Under the second part of the deal, IAF would get 72 and Navy 12 microlights. The two armed forces would use these microlight for adventure sport activities, officials said.
The IAF is the lead agency to evaluate, select and buy these 194 planes and the DAC nod came for staggering the microlight deliveries by Pipistrel, the original equipment manufacturer.
According to Pipistrel Aircraft's website, the Virus SW 80/100 is the "most economic high speed cruiser and definitely the fastest high-wing plane" in its category.
"Made from state-of-the-art composite materials, it is lightweight and features an unprecedented useful payload of more than 300 kg (660 lbs). Virus SW 80/100 is able to operate at all elevations from sea-level up to 15,000 feet, take-off and land from short runways and over obstacles thanks to unique air-brakes, is the quietest light aircraft and has one of the lowest operating costs in its category," the website claimed.
The possibilities are immense on the Virus SW80. It can fly at over 260 kilometers per hour (140 knots), easily overfly terrain higher than 4500 meters (15,000 feet) and cover distances of over 1500 kilometers (800 nautical miles).
Pipistrel Aircraft said the Virus SW 80/100 is ideal for high speed cross-country flying, surveillance missions, ab-initio, advanced and extreme maneuver training, aerial photography and high-mountain operations. It has a glide ratio of 17:1 and can glide further in case of emergency than most planes.
Upon special request, the 10.71-meter Virus SW80/100 can be adapted for special missions, including visual/IR camera gimbals, geographical surveys, trans-oceanic-range flights and more.
More than 100 units of Virus SW80 have already been sold world-wide to nations like Thailand, Ecuador and Canada, and it has won the NASA challenge twice, the company claimed. Since the victories at PAV challenge 2007 and NASA GAT centennial challenge 2008, the Virus SW 80/100 has been further refined and optimized for even better performance.
The aircraft can be equipped by either the Rotax 912 UL2 (80 horse power) or 912 ULS (100 horse power) power-plants and a large variety of avionics options. The new 80 HP Virus SW 80/100 cruises at 246 kilometers per hour (133 knots), burning less than 13.6 liters per hour (3.6 gallons per hour). At 75 per cent cruise-power-setting the 100 HP version speeds over the skies at 273 kilometers per hour (147 knots). The ASTM-LSA version, equipped with the fixed pitch propeller cruises at 119 kts, burning 14.0 liters per hour (3.7 gallon per hour).
The company also claimed the aircraft has a turbulence penetration speed (green arc) of 250 kilometers per hour (135 knots) and the VNE of 302 kilometers per hour (163 knots). "The cockpit remains quiet and comfortable throughout the flight! The Virus SW 80/100 has the largest flight safety margins in its category and can be equipped with the total rescue system, deployable even at maximum speeds and close to the terrain."
The aircraft has an exclusive Kevlar-reinforced safety cockpit with luxurious leather interior. The instrument panel is made of carbon fiber with visible-structure and can accommodate a wide selection of modern avionics, including a full glass-cockpit IFR suite with dual-axis GPS-driven autopilot and electric constant-speed propeller control.