Indian Air Force Acquires 56 C-295 Transport Aircraft

The Indian Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with Airbus Defence & Space Spain for the acquisition of 56 C-295 MW transport aircraft. This marks the first time a private company builds an entire aircraft in India.


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On the 24th of September, the Indian MoD signed a contract with Airbus Defence & Space Spain for the acquisition of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The MoD has also signed an offset contract with Airbus Defence and Space through which Airbus will discharge its offset obligations through direct purchase of eligible products and services from Indian offset partners. These contracts were signed following the approval accorded by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security earlier this month.

Under the terms of the agreement, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain. The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies within the next ten years. This contract marks the first time a private manufacturer will produce an entire aircraft in India. So far this sort of license production had been conducted by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL). 

“This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. “The C295 has proven again as the segment leader, and with the addition of India as a new operator, the type will enlarge its footprint even more, not only on the operational aspects but on its own industrial and technological development”.

TASL is a fully owned subsidiary of Tata Sons, a holding company for the Tata Group. Based in Hyderabad, they had broken the state-owned HAL long-standing monopoly on the production of aircraft in 2010, when TASL entered a joint venture with Sikorsky to manufacture S-92 helicopters. The latter also formed a joint venture with Lockheed Martin to produce C-130 and C-130Js in India. 

Sukaran Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of TASL said: “This is a moment of pride for Tatas and a milestone for the Indian military manufacturing ecosystem. For the first time, an Indian private company will be wholly manufacturing an aircraft in India. This endeavour demonstrates Tata Advanced Systems’ capabilities as a defence manufacturer to build globally competitive complex platforms in India."

The first 16 aircraft will be delivered over four years after the contract implementation. All the IAF C295s will be handed over in transport configuration and equipped with an indigenous electronic warfare suite. After completion of the delivery, the subsequent aircraft manufactured in India can be exported to countries that are cleared by the government of India. The program will also involve the development of specialised infrastructure in the form of hangars, buildings, aprons and taxiways.

The C295s will replace the ageing HS 748 transport aircraft of IAF, which have been in Indian service since the ’60s. The Airbus aircraft will join the An-32, some of which are currently undergoing modernisation in Ukraine, in a light tactical transport role. The C295 will give a major boost to the tactical airlift capability of the IAF, especially in the Northern and North-Eastern sectors and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 

The aircraft has a range of 2000 nm (with 6t of payload) and with cabin dimensions of 12.7m, the longest unobstructed cabin in its class, is able to accommodate up to 71 seats or 50 paratroopers. Cargo can be loaded through its rear ramp door. The C295 can operate from short (no longer than 670 m), soft and rough (CBR 2) unprepared airstrips. It is also designed to provide outstanding low-level flight characteristics for tactical missions, flying at speeds down to 110 knots.

The C295 is in service with a large number of nations. The largest fleet of 24 aircraft is operated by Egypt. Poland operates 16, with another one ordered, Spain operates 13, Portugal twelve and Indonesia eleven. Overall the programme comprises 278 aircraft, 200 of which are already in operation and have booked more than half a million flight hours.

By Kevin Klemann

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