IAF’s first C-295 transport aircraft takes to the skies - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 8 May 2023

IAF’s first C-295 transport aircraft takes to the skies

India has signed a Rs 21,935 crore contract with Airbus for 56 C-295 aircraft 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 8th May 23


The first of 56 Airbus C-295 tactical transport aircraft being acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF) has completed its maiden flight, marking a significant milestone towards its delivery by the second half of 2023. 


The aircraft took off from the Airbus plant at Seville, Spain, on Friday morning and landed smoothly at 2:45 p.m. after three hours of flight. 


India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a Rs 21,935 crore contract with Airbus on September 24, 2021 for 56 C-295 aircraft.


Since the C-295 is intended to replace the IAF’s aging fleet of 56 Avro HS-748 aircraft, this contract is called the “Avro replacement programme.”


The “Avro replacement programme” will require Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) to develop an entire aerospace industrial ecosystem: from manufacture, assembly, testing and qualification, to delivery and maintenance over the aircraft’s lifecycle.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already inaugurated a plant in Vadodara to manufacture the C-295. Airbus officials say this unit will galvanize the development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming decade.


The contract stipulated that Airbus would assemble the first 16 aircraft in Seville and deliver those to the IAF in “fly-away condition” between September 2023 and August 2025. 


The remaining 40 aircraft would be manufactured and assembled in Vadodara by TASL, as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies. The first Made-in-India aircraft is expected in September 2026.


This is the first time the defence ministry has entrusted a private firm — TASL — to carry out the entire final assembly of a military aircraft.


The global C-295 programme comprises a total of 280 orders from 39 operators, making it unmatched in its weight and mission class. Of these 39 operators, the IAF is set to become the world’s largest operator of the C-295. 


In March, the MoD 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, stated the MoD in a press release.


The MoD has previously announced that 96 per cent of the total man-hour work per aircraft that Airbus employs at its manufacturing facility at Spain would be undertaken in India by the Tata consortium. This will involve manufacturing in India of over 13,400 detailed parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all seven major component assemblies, along with tools, jigs, and testers. 


Senior IAF decision-makers have said the C-295 surpasses the performance of the two medium transport aircraft that the IAF currently operates: the British Avro and the Ukrainian-Russian Antonov-32 (AN-32). 


The C-295 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW-127 turboprop engines and can carry up to 71 troops, or 50 paratroopers with battle loads. It can ferry supplies to locations inaccessible to the IAF’s heavy transport fleet, such as the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules or Ilyushin Il-76. 


The multi-role C-295 can also be used for medical evacuation (medevac), using either basic litters or mobile intensive care units with life support equipment. It can also perform special missions, disaster response and maritime patrol duties.


The MoD says that the C-295 would boost the tactical airlift capability of the IAF, especially in the North and Northeastern borders and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

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