The Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) airlifting capabilities are set to be boosted after the nation’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the procurement of 56 C295MW medium-lift tactical transports from Airbus Defence and Space on September 8.
This CCS approval to acquire the 56-strong fleet of C295MWs comes some six years after India’s Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) approved the initial proposal on May 13, 2015. While the proposed purchase has been approved, no official order contract has yet been placed. The C295MW – which has an airlifting capacity of up to ten tonnes – will enhance the IAF’s airlifting capabilities, as well as the air arm’s ability to conduct paradropping operations with troops and cargo.
In IAF service, the introduction of the C295MW will enable the air arm to retire and replace its ageing fleet of Avro (later Hawker Siddeley) 748M ‘Subroto’ transports. At present, India maintains a fleet of more than 40 748Ms, which were license-built domestically by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and began military operations in 1962.
Of the 56 C295MWs planned, 16 will be delivered in a flyaway condition from Airbus Defence and Space’s facility in Seville, Spain, within 48 months of the acquisition contract being signed. The remaining 40 examples will be manufactured locally by the TATA consortium in India within ten years of the contract’s signing. All 56 aircraft will be delivered equipped with an indigenously developed electronic warfare suite.
For the duration of the project, TATA will work in partnership with Airbus under a joint venture. The programme will help the country to further strengthen its domestic production capabilities, while providing a boost to the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
In a press release, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) said: “The programme will provide [a] major boost to the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of the government as it offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into [a] technology intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. The project will augment domestic aviation manufacturing, resulting in reduced import dependence and expected increase in exports.”
As part of the programme, a large number of the C295MW’s parts, sub-assemblies and major components of the airframe structure are set to be manufactured in India. “The programme will act as a catalyst in employment generation in the aerospace ecosystem of the country and is expected to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, over 3,000 indirect jobs and an additional 3,000 medium-skill employment opportunities, with more than 42.5 lakh [4.25 million] man hours of work”. This will also involve the development of specialised infrastructure, including hangars, buildings, aprons and taxiways.
Before deliveries are completed, a ‘D Level’ maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) servicing facility for the C295MW will be established in India. It is anticipated that the facility will serve as a regional MRO hub for a variety of C295 variants and operators.