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IAF's New Transport Aircraft Makes Maiden Flight

By Ajai Shukla
May 09, 2023 16:13 IST
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The Airbus C-295 can carry up to 71 troops, or 50 paratroopers with battle loads.
It can ferry supplies to locations inaccessible to the IAF's heavy transport fleet.

IMAGE: The Airbus C-295. Photograph: Kind courtesy

The first of 56 Airbus C-295 tactical transport aircraft being acquired by the Indian Air Force has completed its maiden flight, marking a significant milestone towards its delivery by the second half of 2023.

The aircraft took off from the Airbus plant in Seville, Spain, and landed smoothly at 2.45 pm after three hours of flight.

India's ministry of defence signed a Rs 21,935 crore (Rs 219.35 billion) contract with Airbus on September 24, 2021, for 56 C-295 aircraft.

Since the C-295 is intended to replace the IAF's ageing fleet of 56 Avro HS-748 aircraft, this contract is called the 'Avro replacement programme'.

The 'Avro replacement programme' will require Tata Advanced Systems to develop an entire aerospace industrial ecosystem: From manufacture, assembly, testing and qualification, to delivery and maintenance over the aircraft's lifecycle.


IMAGE: Prime Minister N D Modi at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing plant in Vadodara, October 30, 2022. Photograph: PTI Photo

Prime Minister N D Modi has already inaugurated a plant in Vadodara to manufacture the C-295. Airbus officials say this unit will galvanise the development of India's aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming decade.

The contract stipulated that Airbus would assemble the first 16 aircraft in Seville and deliver those to the IAF in 'flyaway condition' between September 2023 and August 2025.

The first Made-in-India aircraft is expected in September 2026.

The remaining 40 aircraft would be manufactured and assembled in Vadodara by Tata Advanced Systems, as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.

This was the first time the defence ministry entrusted a private firm -- Tata Advanced Systems -- to carry out the entire final assembly of a military aircraft.

The global C-295 programme comprises a total of 280 orders from 39 operators, making it unmatched in its weight and mission class. Of these, the IAF is set to become the world's largest operator of the C-295.

The first 16 flyaway aircraft are scheduled to be received by the IAF.

In March, the defence ministry signed an offset contract with Airbus Defence and Space, through which Airbus will discharge its offset obligations through the direct purchase of eligible products and services from Indian offset partners.

The defence ministry previously announced that 96 per cent of the total man-hour work per aircraft that Airbus employs at its manufacturing facility in Spain would be undertaken in India by the Tata consortium.

This would involve manufacturing in India of over 13,400 detailed parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies, and all seven major component assemblies, along with tools, jigs, and testers.

Senior IAF decision-makers have said the C-295 surpasses the performance of the two medium transport aircraft that the IAF currently operates: The British Avro and the Ukrainian-Russian Antonov An-32.

The C-295 is powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW127 turboprop engines and can carry up to 71 troops, or 50 paratroopers with battle loads.

It can ferry supplies to locations inaccessible to the IAF's heavy transport fleet, such as the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules or Ilyushin II-76.

The multi-role C-295 can also be used for medical evacuation, using either basic litter or mobile intensive care units with life support equipment. It can also perform special missions, disaster response, and maritime patrol duties.

The defence ministry had earlier said that the C-295 would boost the IAF's tactical airlift capability, especially on the North and North Eastern borders and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

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Ajai Shukla in New Delhi
Source: source