The Union Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday cleared the acquisition of 56 C-295MW medium transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space, Spain, in a deal worth $2.5-3 billion.
The acquisition will be done under the ‘Buy & Make’ category of the Defence Procurement Procedure. Of the 56 aircraft, 16 are to be delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months of signing the contract, while the remaining 40 will be built in India by the Tata group within 10 years of contract signature.
The C-295 is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW-127 engines, a part of the PW-100 family. This is likely to form a substantial part of the cost.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been pressing for years for the acquisition of medium transport aircraft (5-10-tonne lift capacity) to replace its 56 ageing Avro HS-748. The IAF already operates a large fleet of transport aircraft. These include over 100 AN-32s (being upgraded), ageing Russian IL-76s, and two new US aircraft – C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III. However, the IAF believes it requires additional utility and transport aircraft, for tactical use and for disaster relief and emergencies.
The reactivation of advanced landing grounds (ALGs) along the Sino-Indian border would create a requirement of rugged aircraft like the C-295 to operate off them, including for the UDAN programme.
The C-295 is a transporter that performs almost like a fighter. It requires just 700 metres of runway to lift off and climbs rapidly to mission altitude. It has multiple mission capability: transporting 71 persons, lifting 7.25 tonnes of cargo or monitoring the sea for 11 hours non-stop, using sophisticated radar and infra-red scanners. It requires just 350 metres to land.
The C-295 has a rear ramp door for quick loading and unloading and for para dropping of troops and cargo.
Of the 40 C-295s that Tata Aerospace and Defence (Tata A&D) will build, eight will be from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits and another eight from completely knocked down (CKD) kits. The remaining 24 are to be built in India by Tata A&D, incrementally indigenising the assemblies and sub-assemblies.
Given that only 24 aircraft will be built in India, meeting the 50 per cent indigenisation requirement could be a challenge. However, Airbus expects India will order more C295s for its military and central armed police forces.
Before completion of deliveries, a ‘D’ level servicing facility (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) for the C-295MW aircraft is scheduled to be set up in India. It is expected that this facility will act as a regional MRO hub for various variants of C-295 aircraft.
Airbus welcomed the decision of the Cabinet and said it looked forward to signing and executing the contract jointly with the Tata group.