The Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to withdraw from the Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) program, led by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), to develop a 90-seater turboprop aircraft designed for regional civilian use within India. While the government has granted in-principle approval for the full-scale engineering development of the RTA project and allocated funding to a Special Purpose Vehicle, the IAF’s participation in the program seems unlikely.

The NAL estimates that the RTA project could require funding of up to $2 billion to develop three prototypes for developmental and certification purposes. This decision comes as India’s aviation sector has experienced significant growth in the last decade, with an anticipated need for approximately 300 RTA-class aircraft in the country over the next 20 years.

Initially, the IAF’s involvement in the RTA program was driven by the aircraft’s suitability for military transport, particularly for operations from extremely small airstrips. However, limitations such as the absence of a cargo ramp and restricted military utility have prompted the reconsideration of the IAF’s participation. While the IAF will continue to explore aircraft for other force multipliers, it appears that the RTA program will primarily focus on civilian regional transport within India’s growing aviation sector.

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