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India to buy 56 C-295 aircraft

Polish Air Force C-295. (Gerard van der Schaaf/Wikimedia Commons)
September 28, 2021

In a historic deal, India’s Ministry of Defense awarded nearly Rs 22,000-crore ($3 billion) to European aerospace giant Airbus Defence and Space, to acquire the 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Economic Times reported

40 of the new transport aircraft are set to be made in India by private firm Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) through a technology transfer from Airbus.

The deal is also the first time India’s defense sector has licensed an Indian private-sector firm to play a major role in manufacturing aircraft for the Indian military. For decades, state-owned facilities have been responsible for developing India’s domestically-produced aircraft and, according to the Times of India, PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has held a virtual monopoly in the field.

The acquisition of these 56 transport aircraft is expected to increase the IAF’s tactical airlift capability, especially in the northern and north-eastern regions bordering China. According to an Indian defense ministry statement, the aircraft are also expected to serve a key role in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“This is a momentous day. It has been 11 years since Airbus and we first agreed to partner for this project. This project is the deepest ‘Make in India’ project that I am aware of in the private sector,” Sukumaran Singh, the managing director and chief executive officer of TASL, told journalists during a press conference after signing of the contract.

“We will literally take raw materials, aluminum blocks from one end and flying aircraft in the other end. This has not been done in the private (sector),” Sukaran added. “Tata has extended itself to software to cars to making planes now.”

Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice president (Military Aircraft) at Airbus, said the deal is a boost to the industrial enterprise. “This is the start of the new chapter which is the first in India.”

India is currently operating older Avro turboprop aircraft and a number of C-130J Super Hercules transports for rapid troop mobilization and disaster management missions. The Avro transport aircraft first entered service in 1961 and the effort to replace the aging aircraft has been in the works since 2010.

The Ministry of Defense cleared cost negotiations of the c-295 deal six years ago, but the deal was stuck due to finance issues and the military’s prioritization of various other projects. A few weeks ago the Indian government formally announced the deal could go through.

The C-295MW transport features a 9-10 tonne (10 to 11 ton) lift capacity, it is capable of operating from semi-prepared strips and has a rear ramp door for parachute dropping troops and cargo, which could prove vital for deployments on border fronts like in Ladakh.