The Multi-Tasker

Airbus C-295W fully meets all the requirements of the IAF

Mihir Paul

The Hawker Siddeley 748M Avro transport aircraft has been a stable workhorse of the Indian Air Force (IAF) since the Sixties when it was first inducted. After having been used for close to half-a-century for transportation, the Avro has now become extremely obsolete and needs immediate replacement.

C-295W tactical military transport aircraft

The Avro replacement programme first saw major progress in early May 2013, when the ministry of defence (MoD) floated a Request for Proposal (RFP) to major aerospace Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Airbus Defence and Space, and Antonov, among others. The Request for Proposal (RFP) outlined the procurement of 56 medium multi-utility transport aircraft, with 16 of them being purchased directly from the OEM in a fly-away condition while the rest would get assembled and built in India with private Indian co-producer. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave its final nod for the procurement of the same later in 2015.

According to Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), the Avro replacement programme with a ‘Make in India’ component was a well-thought out decision since it asked a foreign manufacturer to choose an Indian partner based on the government’s criteria.

“This would infuse technology to an Indian private player resulting in aircraft manufacture entering the private sector. A thorough and rigorous evaluation of this process was done. In fact, the DAC, to be doubly sure, set up an independent committee headed by the scientific advisor to the defence minister to run the proposal through a grinder,” he said.

Since Airbus-Tata was the only JV to respond to MoD’s RFP, the DAC went ahead and approved the IAF’s motion to move forward with the single-vendor proposal for Airbus’ C-295W tactical military transport aircraft. Interestingly, the Avro replacement programme also happens to be one of the first major ‘Make in India’ programmes in the defence sector. After being selected by the DAC for replacing the IAF’s ageing Avro fleet, the Airbus C-295W has successfully completed field trials at various locations across the country and fully meets the IAF’s requirements for a medium-sized multi-utility tactical transport aircraft. While the DAC has decided on the C-295W for replacing the Avros, the contract is yet to be finalised. The Avro replacement programme has also attracted other services as well. The Coast Guard has already selected the C-295W for its maritime reconnaissance programme and the navy is also likely to come up with a similar programme where it would want to develop an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance platform using the indigenously produced C-295s for its medium-maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) requirements.

The C-295W is a twin-turboprop tactical military transport aircraft manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space in Spain. It is already in service with armed forces of more than 15 countries. The C-295W can not only transport more than 70 people and lift 7.25 tonnes of cargo, but it can also monitor the skies for more than 11 hours non-stop utilising its state-of-the-art radar and infra-red scanners.

Apart from the 16 C-295Ws that will be acquired in a fly-away condition, eight C-295Ws are to be built by Tata A&D from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits and then another eight from completely-knocked-down (CKD) kits. Then, Tata A&D is required to build the remaining 24 in India, indigenising the sourcing of assemblies and sub-assemblies. Given many aircraft being supplied fully built and in kits, meeting the 50 per cent indigenisation requirement could be challenging. Airbus, however, is confident of meeting the indigenisation requirements including Transfer of Technology (ToT) guidelines mentioned in the RFP. In fact, Airbus projects a larger requirement for such aircraft for the military and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), especially after the brazen Pulwama attack with the government now considering moving large sections of troops exclusively by air. Airbus has also cited the reactivation of advanced landing grounds (ALGs) nearing the border regions which would require rugged aircraft like the C-295W to operate off them, including the government’s civilian UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme.

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