Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday laid the foundation stone of a manufacturing facility in Gujarat's Vadodara for the production of C-295 medium transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The aircraft will be produced by a consortium of European aerospace major Airbus and the Tata Group.
It is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company.
The manufacturing unit will also cater for the export of the premier transport aircraft as well as for additional orders by the Indian Air Force.
In September last year, India sealed a Rs 21,935 crore deal with Airbus Defence and Space to procure 56 C-295 aircraft to replace the IAF's ageing Avro-748 planes that entered service in the early 1960s.
Under the agreement, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in 'fly-away' condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain within four years and the subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
The 16 fly-away aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the IAF between September 2023 and August 2025.
The first Made-in-India aircraft is being rolled out of the manufacturing facility in September 2026 and the remaining 39 will have to be produced by August 2031.
The foundation laying ceremony was also attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendrabhai Patel among others.
IAF officials said the aircraft would be able to operate from Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) and even unprepared runways.
It is also the first time that the C-295 aircraft will be manufactured outside of Europe.
All 56 aircraft will be fitted with an indigenous Electronic Warfare suite to be developed by state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited.
After the completion of the delivery of 56 aircraft to IAF, Airbus Defence and Space will be allowed to sell the aircraft manufactured in India to civil operators and export to countries which are cleared by the government of India.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said the indigenous content in the planes will be the highest ever in India, and that 96 per cent of the work that Airbus does in Spain to produce the plane will be done at the manufacturing unit in Vadodara.
The C-295MW is a transport aircraft of 5-10 tonne capacity with contemporary technology.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of 480 kmph.
It has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para-dropping of troops and cargo. Short take-off and landing from semi-prepared surfaces is another of its features.
The aircraft is set to strengthen the logistic capabilities of the IAF.
Officials said the project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into the technology-intensive and highly competitive aviation industry.
The defence ministry said manufacturing of over 13,400 detail parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all the seven major component assemblies of the aircraft will be undertaken in India.
It said various systems such as engines, landing gear and avionics will be provided by Airbus Defence and Space and integrated into the aircraft by the TATA Consortium.
With a proven capability of operating from short or unprepared airstrips, the C295 is 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 aircraft will be tested as an integrated system by the TATA Consortium. The aircraft will be flight tested and delivered through a delivery centre at the TATA Consortium facility.
The project 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.
Nearly 240 engineers will be trained at the Airbus facility in Spain for the project.
'The project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into the technology-intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. It will augment domestic aviation manufacturing resulting in reduced import dependence and expected increase in exports,' the defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday.