Build­ing the Air­bus C295 in In­dia

This op­tion (C295) has the po­ten­tial to en­hance the or­der for the C295 air­craft by an­other 100 at the very least. Be­sides, the Air­bus-TASL joint ven­ture com­pany will vir­tu­ally be­come the prover­bial ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s ‘

SP's MAI - - AEROSPACE FEATURE - [ By Air Mar­shal B.K. Pandey (Retd) ]

In the mid­dle of May last year, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) fi­nally cleared the long awaited project ini­ti­ated by the In­dian Air Force (IAF) for the ac­qui­si­tion of 56 medium-lift mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft to re­place its ob­so­les­cent fleet of Hawker Sid­de­ley HS-748 twin tur­bo­prop trans­port air­craft whose in­duc­tion into the IAF had com­menced as far back as in the early 1960s. In the process of eval­u­a­tion of the three con­tenders that re­sponded to the global ten­der, the Air­bus C295 was se­lected against oth­ers namely the C-27J Spar­tan man­u­fac­tured by Ale­nia Aero­nau­tica of Italy and the An-32 of­fered by Antonov of Ukraine. Both these aero­space firms had joined the race with Air­bus De­fence and Space for the con­tract in re­sponse to the re­quest for pro­posal (RFP) floated in mid-2013.

Emer­gence of an In­dian Player

As per Air­bus, the con­tract for 56 air­craft, which is val­ued at around $2 bil­lion, was ex­pected to be signed within two years af­ter the pre­ferred plat­form was iden­ti­fied. How­ever, this is yet to hap­pen. This par­tic­u­lar ten­der has clearly two unique fea­tures. Firstly, this will per­haps be the first project wherein a mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft will ac­tu­ally be man­u­fac­tured in the coun­try by an orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) from abroad, Air­bus De­fence and Space in this case, through a joint ven­ture part­ner­ship with an In­dian com­pany Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems Lim­ited (TASL). This is a wholly owned sub­sidiary of Tata Sons and is lo­cated on the out­skirts of Hy­der­abad. Sec­ondly, this is also the first ma­jor project wherein the state-owned In­dian aero­space ma­jor Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL) has not been al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in the bid­ding process and in­stead,

doors have been flung open to the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try in the pri­vate sec­tor.

This hard de­ci­sion was taken de­spite the fact that HAL is the only aero­space com­pany in In­dia that has any ex­pe­ri­ence in build­ing mil­i­tary air­craft even though pri­mar­ily un­der li­cence. On the other hand, the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try in the pri­vate sec­tor, rel­a­tively speak­ing, has very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence and is gen­er­ally re­garded as be­ing prac­ti­cally a novice in the field. How­ever, in just five years, TASL has evolved into a sig­nif­i­cant player on ac­count of its no­table con­tri­bu­tion to the global aero­space in­dus­try. The com­pany has be­come an im­por­tant man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner for global OEMs de­liv­er­ing over 1,00,000 parts in a year to var­i­ous end cus­tomers all over the world. Part­ners of TASL in the global aero­space in­dus­try in­clude Siko­rsky Air­craft Cor­po­ra­tion for whom it makes cab­ins for the S-92 he­li­copters, Lock­heed Martin Aero­nau­tics for whom the com­pany man­u­fac­tures air­frame com­po­nents for the global sup­ply chain of the C-130J Su­per Hercules mil­i­tary tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft. Other aero­space firms that TASL has part­nered with are Pi­la­tus Air­craft Ltd of Switzer­land, Cob­ham Mis­sion Equip­ment and RUAG Avi­a­tion. The com­pany has de­vel­oped ca­pa­bil­i­ties across the en­tire value chain of the aero­space in­dus­try from de­sign to full air­craft as­sem­bly. There ought to be no doubt that this com­pany in the pri­vate sec­tor of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try is poised to emerge as a ma­jor player in In­dia in this sec­tor. It is also the first com­pany in the pri­vate sec­tor of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try to be cer­ti­fied by the In­dian air­wor­thi­ness au­thor­ity, Cen­tre for Mil­i­tary Air­wor­thi­ness and Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (CEMILAC) to ‘AS 9100: Rev B Stan­dard’ stip­u­lated for the de­sign of air­frame struc­tures.

Econ­omy of Scale

As per Domingo Ureña Raso, Vice Pres­i­dent Mil­i­tary Air­craft, Air­bus De­fence and Space, the C295 is clearly the best air­craft to re­place the Avro fleet of the IAF. Also, Air­bus is of the view that TASL is the “cream of the In­dian pri­vate aero­space sec­tor” and that the OEM has en­tered into the best pos­si­ble part­ner­ship ar­range­ment avail­able in In­dia for build­ing the C295 air­craft. How­ever, one is­sue that could of con­cern is the size of the or­der for the IAF. Apart from the first 16 air­craft that the OEM is to sup­ply in fly-away con­di­tion di­rectly from the fac­tory in Spain, the re­quire­ment of the IAF has been cur­rently pegged at mere 40 plat­forms that would be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia. This num­ber is much too small to pro­vide the ben­e­fit of econ­omy of scale that the joint ven­ture com­pany would like to have to jus­tify the size­able in­vest­ment both the part­ners would have to make for cre­ation of in­fra­struc­ture as well as for build­ing up a cadre of spe­cial­ist hu­man re­source. The an­swer to this dilemma lies quite ob­vi­ously in en­hanc­ing the or­ders from the In­dian armed forces and pos­si­bly from the civil­ian seg­ment for some spe­cialised tasks. Over and above the de­mand from within the coun­try, it would also be nec­es­sary to ac­cess the global mar­ket which the OEM should be quite ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing. Air­bus al­ready has a well es­tab­lished pres­ence in the global mar­ket with or­ders from 19 coun­tries, sev­eral of which have placed re­peat or­ders. In the last one year alone, the com­pany has re­ceived or­ders for 20 air­craft from five coun­tries.

Po­ten­tial Mar­ket for the C295

The fleet of 56 C295 air­craft that have been or­dered to re­place the age­ing Avro fleet, will be em­ployed for car­riage of mil­i­tary per­son­nel and cargo rou­tinely as also for air­borne as­sault op­er­a­tions dur­ing war. The In­dian para­mil­i­tary forces such as the Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force (BSF) and the Indo-Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice (ITBP) are likely to ac­quire a few air­craft to meet with their trans­porta­tion needs. In ad­di­tion to the cargo and pas­sen­ger car­ry­ing ver­sions, the air­craft is avail­able in a num­ber of other vari­ants as un­der: Air­borne early warn­ing with Is­raeli AESA radar Mar­itime pa­trol/anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare Gun­ship AC-295 Water­bomber for fight­ing for­est fires As the air­craft can be made avail­able through lo­cal man­u­fac­ture by the joint ven­ture com­pany in In­dia in a num­ber of vari­ants, there would, in all like­li­hood, be a de­cent po­ten­tial mar­ket in the coun­try it­self. The IAF could in due course con­sider in­duc­tion of the air­borne early warn­ing and the gun­ship vari­ants. The In­dian Navy could well con­sider the mar­itime pa­trol/anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare ver­sion in­stead of look­ing at sources abroad for such plat­forms. The In­dian Coast Guard too could ac­quire these plat­forms mod­i­fied for mar­itime pa­trol.

But per­haps the largest po­ten­tial for de­mand within the coun­try lies with the IAF. To­day, the IAF op­er­ates a fleet of over 100 An-32 twin tur­bo­prop tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft that would have to be re­tired from ser­vice in an­other 15 years or so. A project to de­velop a medium-lift mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft jointly by HAL and United Air­craft Cor­po­ra­tion (UAC) of Rus­sia with a pay­load ca­pa­bil­ity of 20 tonnes was ini­ti­ated in 2009. The air­craft des­ig­nated as multi-role trans­port air­craft (MTA) was be­ing de­vel­oped to re­place the An-32 fleet. The ini­tial or­der for the IAF was pegged at 45. How­ever, seven years af­ter the project was con­ceived, re­ports in the me­dia in­di­cate that the project ap­pears to have hit a road­block that seems to be in­sur­mount­able. The is­sue of con­tention ap­pears to be the power plant. The IAF is seek­ing a modern en­gine with FADEC which the Rus­sian part­ner is not will­ing to pro­vide as it would take many years to de­velop one and the as­so­ci­ated cost es­ca­la­tion. As per re­ports ema­nat­ing from Rus­sia, UAC is pre­pared to go ahead with the de­vel­op­ment of the MTA and dump the In­dian part­ner. In this sit­u­a­tion it makes lit­tle sense for the na­tion to con­tinue to re­main as­so­ci­ated with the project as it can no longer be re­garded as ‘Joint De­vel­op­ment.’ The de­ci­sion to with­draw from the MTA project ought not to be dif­fi­cult es­pe­cially as a ready­made so­lu­tion by way of the lo­cally man­u­fac­tured Air­bus C295 that has a pay­load ca­pac­ity of just over nine tonnes, would be avail­able to re­place the An-32 fleet which has a pay­load ca­pac­ity of seven tonnes. This op­tion has the po­ten­tial to en­hance the or­der for the C295 air­craft by an­other 100 at the very least. Be­sides, the Air­bus-TASL joint ven­ture com­pany will vir­tu­ally be­come the prover­bial ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s ‘Make in In­dia’ scheme.

The C-295 will per­haps be the first project wherein a mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft will ac­tu­ally be man­u­fac­tured in the coun­try by an orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer from abroad

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