India signs $2.5-bn contract for 56 Airbus C-295 military aircraft

The C-295 can transport up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers with battle loads. They can ferry supplies to locations that are not accessible to the IAF’s heavier transport aircraft
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a $2.5 billion contract on Friday for the acquisition of 56 Airbus C-295 aircraft. These will replace the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) legacy fleet of Avro HS-748 aircraft.

Under the terms of the contract, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain. The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled in India by Tata Advanced Systems (TASL), as part of an industrial partnership between Airbus and TASL.

The IAF will become the 35th operator of the C-295 worldwide. Airbus has obtained orders for 278 of these aircraft, of which 200 are already in operation. The C-295 has logged more than half a million flight-hours.

“The MoD has also signed an offset contract with M/s Airbus Defence and Space through which M/s Airbus will discharge its offset obligations through direct purchase of eligible products and services from Indian Offset Partners,” stated the MoD.

This so-called “Avro replacement programme” will mark the first time a private sector firm will build an entire aircraft in India, developing an entire industrial ecosystem: from manufacture, assembly, testing and qualification, to delivery and maintenance over the aircraft’s lifecycle.  

“This is a moment of pride for Tatas and a milestone for the Indian military manufacturing ecosystem. For the first time, an Indian private company will be wholly manufacturing an aircraft in India,” said Sukaran Singh, the TASL chief.

“This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. 

All the C-295s will be handed over to the IAF in transport configuration and equipped with an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite. The C-295 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW-127 turbo-prop engines, a part of the PW-100 family.

The C-295 can transport up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers with battle loads. They can ferry supplies to locations that are not accessible to the IAF’s heavier transport aircraft, such as the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules or Ilyushin 76. 

The C-295 can also be used for medical evacuation (medevac), as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, using either basic litters or mobile intensive care units (ICU) with life support equipment. It can also perform special missions, disaster response and maritime patrol duties.

“The (C-295) will give a major boost to tactical airlift capability of the IAF, especially in the Northern and North-Eastern sector and Andaman & Nicobar Islands,” stated the MoD.

This is the first major win in India for Airbus Defence. However, it is participating in several high-value Indian acquisitions, where it fancies its chances. These include the naval utility helicopter (NUH) tender, in which it is offering the H135M and AS565 Panther; and the naval multirole helicopter (NMRH) program, for which it is fielding the H225M Caracal.

Airbus is also participating in the IAF’s acquisition of airborne refuelling tankers, for which it has fielded the A330 MRTT.

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