(This was originally posted in The Hindu by Dinakar Peri)
The Defence Ministry on September 24 signed a deal with Airbus and Space S.A., Spain, for procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft to replace the Avro-748 planes of the Indian Air Force. This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India under technology transfer by a private company, and the deal value is estimated around ₹22,000 crore.
Of these, 16 aircraft will be delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months and 40 aircraft will be manufactured in India by Tata Consortium within 10 years from the date of contract. The deal was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security early this month and the final contract marks the culmination of a decade-long process to replace the ageing Avro aircraft in service. The IAF has 56 Avro transport aircraft procured in the 1960s and in urgent need of replacement. The Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued to global firms in May 2013 and the sole bid by Airbus and Tata Group with the C-295 aircraft was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015. However, the final deal was repeatedly delayed.
The C-295 MW aircraft is a transport plane of 5-10 tonne capacity and has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo. It is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines, part of the PW100 family. All 56 aircraft will be installed with indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite. The programme 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 man hours of work within the aerospace and defence sector of India, the Defence Ministry had stated earlier. The Avro replacement has become a critical project for the IAF after an ambitious project to jointly co-develop and produce a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) of 20 tonnes with Russia to replace the An-32s, workhorse of the IAF, was scrapped after initial design discussions.