The Indian Air Force (IAF) has long been looking to replace the 56 aging Avro transport aircraft that it procured in the 1960s. The only bid for the project came from the Tata-Airbus joint venture, which had offered the C-295 aircraft to the IAF.
Although the bid received the green signal from India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015, the final deal kept getting delayed.
This one-of-its-kind deal worth almost $3 billion is set to be signed on September 23. Not only will the C-295 be a strong addition to the IAF, but the deal itself is a significant milestone for India’s private defense sector and the country’s ‘Make In India’ initiative.
Multi-Role Tactical Airlifter
The Airbus C-295 is a versatile new-generation tactical airlift and intelligence, survey, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Although it can perform multiple operations, the aircraft specialized in air transport missions, under all types of weather conditions, day and night.
It has received orders from both civil and military operators around the globe, from Canada and Spain to Egypt and Indonesia.
The C295 has a maximum cruising altitude of over 7 km, a range of 1351 km, and a cruising speed of 260 Knots true airspeed (KTAS). It has in-the-air endurance of up to 11 hours. Its performance characteristics allow it to use short, semi-prepared runways.
The aircraft’s landing gear can sustain additional weight so that the take-off and landing maximums are equalized. This allows immediate landing after an aborted take-off. Additionally, twin-wheeled nose gear also provides operational enhancements on unpaved runways.
The C-295’s rear ramp allows for easy loading of mission pallets, cargo, passengers, and litters for medical evacuation. Besides this certified ramp, the plane also has a lateral side door that is used for para-drops. There are provisions to install four bubble spotter windows on the fuselage to aid visual search.
The C-295MW that India is looking to induct is a transport aircraft of 5-10 ton capacity. Other than the routine features of most other aircraft of the sort have, all 56 aircraft that India will have will be installed with the indigenously built electronic warfare suite, which features a radar warner and jammer.
The latter allows the pilot to nullify the impact of detected radar threats using an appropriate mode of jamming.
Big Boost For Private Defense Sector
The deal to provide the C-295s to the IAF is a joint venture between the European consortium Airbus Defence and Space and India’s Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL).
The Economic Times reported that it is the biggest military order (INR 22,000 crores or approximately $2.9 billion) given to the private sector in India.
The report added that the deal is part of a series of initiatives to enhance the participation of the private sector in defense manufacturing.
According to the contract, Airbus will provide 16 aircraft in flyaway condition to the IAF, while the remaining 40 will be manufactured locally by TASL over a period of 10 years.
For the Indian plant, locations around Hyderabad and Bengaluru are being considered. Locations in the states of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh might also be under consideration.
A statement from the Indian Defense Ministry said that the project is extremely significant in terms of bolstering the aerospace ecosystem in India. Manufacturing parts of the aircraft could also see involvement from many micro, small, and medium enterprises spread all over India.
The statement also said that the program would aid employment generation in the aerospace industry of the country. The MoD expects the venture to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, and over 3,000 indirect jobs. It is speculated to create an additional 3,000 medium-skill employment opportunities in the country’s defense industry.
Moreover, it is expected that all the suppliers of the Tata-led consortium involved in the project will now be globally recognized under the National Aerospace and Defence Contractors Accreditation Program.
The development of specialized infrastructures such as a taxiway, hangars, buildings, and aprons is a part of the program. The MoD said that servicing facilities for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of the C-295MW aircraft are scheduled to be set up in India, before the completion of deliveries. The ministry expects this facility to serve as a regional MRO hub for the multiple variants of C-295 aircraft.
The EurAsian Times had already previously reported how this particular deal is being seen as a major development in India’s quest for becoming a crucial aerospace hub.