The induction of C-295 aircraft "heralds a new era for the Air Force" and this fleet will in times to come become the backbone of the force's tactical lift capability, former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal (retd) RKS Bhadauria said on Monday.
The first C-295 medium tactical transport aircraft was inducted into the Indian Air Force in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh earlier in the day.
The induction ceremony took place at the Hindan airbase here.
IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari was also present on the occasion.
Former IAF chief Bhadauria said this aircraft is "state-of-the-art" and "hugely capable".
"It's a great day for the IAF as it was one of the very critical requirement to replace the Avro fleet. And, from that perspective, this induction ceremony is heralding a new era for the Air Force in terms of the tactical airlift capability," he told PTI at Hindan airbase.
This fleet will in times to come become the "backbone of tactical lift capability," Bhadauria added.
"And, more importantly with indigenous manufacturing in private sector, this would be a game changer for the private industry and for the Air Force in the long-run, from the point of view of maintenance, sustenance, etc.," the former IAF chief said.
The incumbent IAF chief on September 13 had received the first of the 56 C-295 transport aircraft two years after India sealed a Rs 21,935-crore deal with Airbus Defence and Space to procure the jets to replace its ageing Avro-748 fleet.
The first of these medium tactical transport aircraft had landed in Vadodara on September 20, days after it was handed over to the IAF in the southern Spanish city of Seville.
Under the deal, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in fly-away condition from its final assembly line in Seville by 2025 and the subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
"This is very important as it is the first in terms of transport fleet, a transport aircraft getting manufactured in the country, and that too in the private sector. So, from that perspective too, from industry perspective, its a very big milestone, a huge milestone," Bhadauria said.
"Otherwise, we were manufacturing trainers, fighters, helicopters, but transport of this class, this is the first," he said.
Asked if the C-295 aircraft delivery in future will be in consonance with change in technology, he said, "The aircraft that we are inducting is a state-of the-art one, and in near future there is no worry from this perspective."
The avionics, these kind of technology keep getting upgraded, Bhadauria said.
"In due course, in times to come, there will be a need to upgrade it further as per technology development, that is life cycle is each aircraft, it will happen in future," he said.
The first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft was inducted in September 2020 during Bhadauria's tenure as the IAF chief.
The Indian Air Force is procuring the C-295 aircraft to replace its fleet of ageing Avro-748 planes that entered the service over six decades back.
The C-295 is known to be a superior aircraft used for tactical transport of up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, and for logistic operations to locations that are not accessible to current heavier aircraft.
The aircraft can airdrop paratroops and loads, and also be used for casualty or medical evacuation.
The aircraft is capable of performing special missions as well as disaster response and maritime patrol duties.
The production of components of these aircraft has already started in the Main Constituent Assembly facility in Hyderabad.
These parts will be shipped to the final assembly line in Vadodara which is expected to be operational by November 2024.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of the manufacturing facility for C-295 planes in Vadodara in October last year. It will be the first military aircraft to be manufactured in India by a private consortium.