Govt, Airbus ink pact for 56 C-295 military aircraft

Govt seals mega deal with Airbus for purchase of 56 C-295 military aircraft; 40 to be made in India

The remaining 16 aircraft will be delivered in a flyaway condition by Airbus Defence and Space within 48 months of signing the contract

This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. Credit: Airbus handout

The Defence Ministry on Friday signed a Rs 21,000 crore deal with Airbus to procure 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force to replace its aging Avro fleet, ending a six-decade-long wait for the European aviation major to secure an Indian military contract.

The pact also marks the entry of the Tata Group as the first private player to manufacture military aircraft in India, terminating a monopoly enjoyed by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics limited as 40 of the 56 aircraft would be made in India by a Tata-Airbus consortium.

The remaining 16 aircraft will be delivered in a flyaway condition by Airbus Defence and Space from its assembly line in Seville, Spain within 48 months of signing the contract.

“The project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into technology-intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. All the deliveries will be completed within ten years of signing the contract,” a Defence Ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

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The aircraft is capable of operating from semi-prepared strips and has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo. Powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW127G turboprop engines, the C295 has a very long endurance of up to 13 hours in the air.

The aircraft can carry 71 personnel on board cargo up to 9 tonnes and will give a major boost to the tactical airlift capability of IAF, especially in the northern and North-Eastern sector and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. All 56 aircraft will be installed with indigenous electronic warfare suite.

In a signed statement, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Trusts said the clearance of the joint project between Airbus Defence and Tata Advanced Systems to build the aircraft was a "great step forward” in the opening up of the aviation and avionics projects in India.

“It will create a domestic supply chain capability to international standards, which has never been undertaken before. The Tata Group congratulates Airbus and the Indian Defence Ministry for this bold step in fully building this state-of-the-art multi-role aircraft in India in support of the Make-in-India thrust to bolster the country's equity framework,” he said.

Significantly, the ministry signed the commercial contract just after two weeks of securing a nod from the Cabinet Committee of Security, ending the IAF’s long wait to find a replacement for the slow-moving Avro planes.

For Airbus, it is the first defence contract after the 1960s when it bagged a deal to supply Cheetah and Chetak helicopters to India. The European aircraft manufacturer was earlier shortlisted in three Indian programmes, none of which materialised.

The Defence ministry also inked an offset contract with Airbus Defence and Space through which Airbus will discharge its offset obligations through direct purchase of eligible products and services from Indian offset partners.

Before completion of deliveries, a top class servicing facility for C-295MW aircraft will be set up in India to act as a regional Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) hub for various variants of C-295 aircraft operating in the region.

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