News broke out on Wednesday 8th September 2021 that The Union Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has given the all-clear signal for the purchase of 56 C-295MW medium transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space, Spain, in a deal worth about 2.5 to 3 billion US dollars.
NC airways Tata-Airbus Project reports that the acquisition will be done under the 'Buy & Make' category of the Defence Procurement Procedure. Of the 56 aircraft, 16 are to be delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months of signing the contract, while the remaining 40 will be built in India by the Tata group within 10 years of signing the contract.
The C-295 is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW-127 engines, a part of the PW-100 family that will replace the 56 aging Avro HS-748, something The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been pressing for years to achieve. The IAF already operates a large fleet of transport aircraft. These include over 100 AN-32s (being upgraded), aging Russian IL-76s, and two new US aircraft – C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III. However, the IAF believes it requires additional utility and transport aircraft, for tactical use and disaster relief and emergencies.
NC airways Tata-Airbus Project can authoritatively report that out of the 40 C-295s that Tata Aerospace and Defence (Tata A & D) will build, eight will be from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits and another eight from completely knocked down (CKD) kits. The remaining 24 are to be built in India by Tata A & D, incrementally indigenizing the assemblies and sub-assemblies.
The C-295 is a transporter that performs almost like a fighter plane. It requires just 700 meters of runway to lift off and climbs rapidly to mission altitude. It has multiple mission capabilities: transporting 71 persons, lifting 7.25 tons of cargo, or monitoring the sea for 11 hours non-stop, using sophisticated radar and infra-red scanners. It requires just 350 meters to land. It also has a rear ramp door for quick loading and unloading and para dropping of troops and cargo.
Some analysts have opined that given that only 24 aircraft will be built in India, meeting the 50 percent indigenization requirement is going to be a challenge. However, Airbus expects India will order more C295s for its military and central armed police forces. Before completion of deliveries, it is expected that a 'D' level servicing facility (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) for the C-295MW aircraft would be set up in India which will act as a regional MRO hub for various variants of C-295 aircraft.
Incidentally, this is the first defense contract the European firm Airbus has signed with India since the 1960s despite being in the country for over five decades. It is also the first project in India in which a military aircraft will be manufactured by a private company.
Although cost negotiations were completed six years ago, the deal was delayed due to financial issues and the prioritization of various other projects, including the Rafale deal. During this period though, there has not been any price increment by Airbus, which link up with TATA for the execution of the project.
According to N Chandra, founder of NC Airways, “The Tata-Airbus project being awarded to a private player while ignoring HAL indicates a radical change in India's government policies towards socialism vs. capitalism.”
In an interview with ThePrint earlier in February, Rémi Maillard, president of Airbus India and the company's managing director for South Asia, said the manufacturing of the aircraft domestically“will be the trigger to develop a total aerospace ecosystem in India”.
NC airways Tata-Airbus Project reports that the defense ministry has said that the Airbus will discharge its offset obligations through direct purchase of eligible products and services from Indian offset partners. A statement from the ministry has said,“A large number of detail parts, sub-assemblies, and major component assemblies of the aero structure are scheduled to be manufactured in India. The program will act as a catalyst in employment generation in the aerospace ecosystem of the country and 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 defense sector of India.”
The statement also went further to state that,“It will involve the development of specialized infrastructure in form of hangars, buildings, aprons, and taxiway. During the process of manufacturing in India, it is expected that all the suppliers of TATA Consortium who will be involved in special processes, will gain and maintain globally recognized National Aerospace and Defence Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP) accreditation.”
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