A requirement for a military transport to replace 56 HS.748 twin turboprops operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) is raising procedural problems for potential bidders. India released a Request for Information last December inviting OEMs to bid only if they could find private Indian partners. But candidate Indian companies are reluctant to commit to the project. The Airbus Military C-295 and the Alenia C-27J are the most likely contenders.
The few Indian manufacturers capable of involvement say they need a commitment for at least 200 aircraft from the Ministry of Defense. “We need a business case before we invest money in the project,” one of them told AIN. Indian companies that are believed to have shown interest include the Tata Group, Larsen & Toubro and Reliance Industries.
Government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics is set to co-produce the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) in a joint venture with the Russians. The MTA is in the 20-ton class, whereas the IAF’s 748 replacement would be smaller, around 10 tons. Unlike the 748 but like the MTA, however, it would have a rear ramp and short-field capability. The tight production schedule requires delivery of the first aircraft within two years of contract signing, followed by another 14 within 24 months.
“It is unlikely the Russians will participate [in the 748 replacement], because if the IAF wanted them, it would have ordered more Antonov An-32s. Since Ukraine stopped manufacture, there are few global buyers….There is also doubt that any private company in India wants to get involved with the Russian government,” said a defense official. India is currently upgrading 105 An-32s with improved avionics.
Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia Aeronautica, estimates that demand for military transports in India will reach 100 aircraft in the future. The Indian requirement “opens possibilities for us to work with Indian partners” to meet needs in southeast Asia and Australia, he told AIN last year. The C-27J has since been chosen by the Royal Australian Air Force. “With an Indian collaboration, we will do some engineering activities in Italy and some in India,” Giordo continued.