India and Russia Move Ahead with New Airlifter

 - June 1, 2012, 2:20 PM
The Indo-Russian Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) will be a high-wing, twin-turboprop design. (Photo: HAL)

India’s Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has signed a contract with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp Transport Aircraft (UAC-TA) to co-develop the 15- to 20-metric-ton-payload multirole transport aircraft (MTA). The pair formed a joint venture, Multirole Transport Aircraft Ltd, in 2010, following an inter-governmental agreement three years earlier.

The MTA is likely to be derived from the Il-214 twin-turbofan design by the Ilyushin Design Bureau. It will have a maximum takeoff weight of 65 metric tons; payload capacity of 15 to 20 metric tons; cruise speed of 430 knots; a range of up to 1,460 nm and a service ceiling of 39,400 feet (12,000 m). “The investment for the program is $771 million,” junior defense minister M.M. Pallam Raju told the Indian parliament recently.

India requires the MTA to replace its 105 aging Antonov An-32s. The total envisioned production is 205 aircraft, of which 100 will be for the Russian Air Force, 45 for the Indian air force and 60 for third countries. The MTA will be designed for cargo/troop transportation; para-dropping; and air drop of supplies, including a low-altitude parachute extraction system.

HAL will perform its workshare at the Aircraft R&D Center at Bangalore, while its Transport Aircraft Division at Kanpur will manufacture the prototypes. HAL divisions will share development of systems and line-replaceable units, components, subassemblies and composite structures.

“Judging by the dynamics of the MTA program, the design and construction of a prototype could be finished by 2022, and the airplane could make its maiden flight by 2025,” Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, commented to a Russian news wire. He thought it likely that the project could be obsolete by the time it enters serial production a few years later. Indian officials have not given a timescale. One likely competitor for international orders, the Embraer KC-390, is due to fly in 2014.