Last week (May 17), the Diamond Aircraft DART-450 (short for Diamond Aircraft Reconnaissance Trainer) conducted its maiden flight in Austria. Powered by a 500hp Ukrainian turboprop (Ivchenko-Progress/Motor Sich AI-450S), the DART-450 was able to touch 370km/h on its maiden flight. According to the manufacturer, the DART-450 uses a sidestick flight control configuration, and its airframe is built using exclusively composite materials. In fact, it is marketed as the first of its kind in this regard.
Comment and Analysis
Although it is not as powerful as the lightweight turboprop trainers on the market today, such as the EMB-314 Super Tucano, the Diamond Aircraft DART-450 may penetrate a key and lucrative market in short-order. While a relative lightweight, the DART-450 is expected to benefit from a very competitive cost advantages: a $3 million U.S. unit price and a $500 per hour flight cost.
While it is not inconceivable to see Diamond Aircraft develop a heavier attack-capable variant down the line, the present design is very attractive in terms of the value it could bring as a basic trainer.
Think of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Super Mushshak; the DART-450 is basically taking aim at that market. But what does it bring to the table? A tandem-seat layout evidently built to simulate the modern fighter cockpit (with emphasis on modern fly-by-wire based designs).
Granted, there are many other designs seeking to do the same, such as the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Hürkuş and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KT-1, but the DART-450 could potentially be had for much less. Partnering with a Ukrainian firm (which is providing the engine) also opens the DART-450 up to a potentially wide market as well – those with financial and/or political restraints vis-à-vis most Western suppliers may consider the DART-450 attractive if it offers the right performance and price mix.