Central government clears Rs.21,000 crore deal to buy 56 military transport planes from Airbus Defence and Space; 40 to be manufactured in India by the Tata Consortium

Published : September 09, 2021 12:07 IST

The Airbus C295 military transport aircraft. Photo: By Special Arrangement

After being consigned to the back-burner for over six years, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved on September 8 the procurement of 56, twin-turboprop, Airbus C295 MW transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The $2.8 billion (Rs.21,000 crore) deal envisages the delivery of 16 C295 MW aircraft in a flyaway condition by the original equipment manufacturer from Airbus’ production facility in Spain within two years of the signing of the contract, with the remaining 40 being manufactured in India by the Tata Consortium over a 10-year period.

A 9.5-tonne category, multi-role, tactical, all-weather transport aircraft, the C295 MW is expected to replace the IAF’s ageing Avro-748 fleet inducted in the early 1960s. The C295 aircraft, which is equipped with a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para-dropping of troops and cargo, is also projected to take on some tasks of the Antonov An-32, another IAF’s workhorse. All 56 aircraft will be installed with indigenous electronic warfare suites.

The C295MW deal will witness for the first time a consortium/company from the Indian private sector producing a military aircraft in India under a transfer of technology arrangement from a foreign original equipment manufacturer. Hitherto, it was only the defence public sector enterprise Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) that had a virtual monopoly in the field of license production of military combat and transport aircraft.

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, the C295 MW project “offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter the technologically intensive and highly competitive aviation industry, thereby giving a boost to the aerospace ecosystem in India”. The C295 deal is expected to provide the opportunity to several MSMEs located across the country to get involved in the manufacturing of parts for the aircraft.

Said the spokesperson: “The C295 MW programme will augment domestic aviation manufacturing resulting in reduced import dependence and an expected increase in exports. A large number of detail parts, sub-assemblies and major component assemblies of aero structures are scheduled to be manufactured in India. 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…. Before completion of deliveries, a D-level MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) facility for the C295MW aircraft is scheduled to be set up in India. It is expected that this facility will act as a regional MRO hub for various variants of the C295 aircraft.”

The Tata-Airbus C295 project had been approved by the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), headed by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in May 2015.

In a related move, the CCS also gave the nod for six AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) aircraft for the IAF. To be built on the Airbus A319 aircraft platform by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Bengaluru-based Centre for Airborne Systems under a Rs.11,000 crore project, the six aircraft will be modified to fly with a radar that will provide a 360-degree surveillance capability. The aircraft will further improve the IAF’s surveillance capabilities along the borders with China and Pakistan. The six Airbus A319s are to be provided by state-owned Air India, thereby negating the earlier expectation that India was looking to procure six Airbus A330 transport aircraft from the European firm.