Air­bus C295 on the hori­zon!

In­duc­tion of the Avro fleet into the IAF had be­gun in the early 1960s and hav­ing ren­dered over five decades of ser­vice, re­tire­ment of the fleet is cer­tainly over­due

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE -

As­tate­ment in the last week of March this year by Air Chief Mar­shal B.S. Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff, In­dian Air Force (IAF), that the con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions for 56 Air­bus C295 air­craft to re­place the age­ing fleet of Avro HS 748 are likely to com­mence shortly, helped el­e­vate the sag­ging spir­its of the tac­ti­cal trans­port fleet of the IAF. The strate­gic air­lift ca­pa­bil­ity of the IAF had been re­in­forced through the in­duc­tion in Septem­ber 2013, of the 10 C-17 Globe­mas­ter III from Boe­ing of the US. In the tac­ti­cal air­lift seg­ment, the main­stay con­tin­ues to be the 100-odd An-32 twin-tur­bo­prop medium tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft pro­cured from the erst­while Soviet Union. The fleet of An-32 air­craft whose in­duc­tion had com­menced in the mid-1980s, is age­ing. How­ever, with a midlife up­grade cur­rently un­der­way, the An-32 fleet is ex­pected to be in ser­vice for an­other two decades or so. The tac­ti­cal trans­port fleet had re­ceived a par­tial re­lief when in Fe­bru­ary 2011, six C-130J Su­per Her­cules heavy tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft pow­ered by four tur­bo­prop en­gines were in­ducted into the IAF. Ac­tion is in hand to in­duct an­other seven of such plat­forms which would in­clude one C-130J lost in an ac­ci­dent. This should be of some so­lace to the trans­port fleet of the IAF.

In­duc­tion of the Avro HS 748 fleet into the IAF had be­gun in the early 1960s and hav­ing ren­dered more than five decades of ser­vice, re­tire­ment of the fleet is cer­tainly over­due. To cover the gap thus cre­ated in the medium-lift cat­e­gory, in May 2013, the Min­istry of De­fence had is­sued a re­quest for pro­posal for the sup­ply of 56 twin-en­gine tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft with a pay­load ca­pac­ity of around 10 tonnes. The orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in the race for the ten­der val­ued at $2.5 bil­lion were CASA/EADS, re­named Air­bus Mil­i­tary (Spain), Ale­nia Aer­ma­c­chi (Italy), Boe­ing and Lock­heed Martin (United States), Antonov (Ukraine), Ilyushin (Rus­sia) and Em­braer (Brazil).

Af­ter a rig­or­ous eval­u­a­tion by the IAF, the Air­bus C295 was de­clared as the pre­ferred plat­form. A unique fea­ture of this ten­der is that 40 of the 56 plat­forms would be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia with the in­volve­ment of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try in the pri­vate sec­tor. This is the first time that in such a col­lab­o­ra­tive project, the In­dian public sec­tor aero­space ma­jor the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited has not been taken on board. In­stead, Air­bus has en­tered into part­ner­ship with the Hy­der­abad-based Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems Lim­ited and has es­tab­lished a joint ven­ture to man­u­fac­ture 40 C295 for the IAF as also pro­duce the air­craft re­quired by other ser­vices or agen­cies in the coun­try.

Af­ter nearly four years of what has been an ag­o­nis­ing wait for the IAF, the Air­bus C295 project is fi­nally mov­ing for­ward.

AIR MAR­SHAL B.K. PANDEY (RETD)

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