India To Attempt Local Overhaul of Troubled An-32 Fleet

 - February 23, 2016, 7:48 AM
The Indian air force hopes that a commercial MRO can help keep its Anotonov An-32s in service. (Photo: Antonov)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will issue a request for proposal (RFP) next month for the overhaul of 20 Antonov An-32 airlifters to independent Indian maintenance repair and overhaul providers. The move follows problems with an upgrade by the OEM in Ukraine, on the heels of deteriorating relations between that country and Russia. Meanwhile, a long-planned Indo-Russian project to eventually replace the IAF’s 105-strong fleet of An-32s has stalled.

The former IAF maintenance commander Air Marshall P. Kanakraj set the scene for the RFP two years ago when he said, “We are expecting the MRO Industry to partner for reclamation, refurbishment and re-equipping of our aviation assets…both fighter and transport aircraft.” AIN has learned that an RFI was issued a few months ago to Air India Engineering Services, Air Works India, Taneja Aerospace and GMR Aero Technic. The RFP will be for 11 packages, including repainting, wing structure modification and aging fleet and ultrasonic inspection.

The work performed on the 40 IAF An-32s that were upgraded in Ukraine before the crisis with Russia halted progress included air collision avoidance system, ground proximity warning system, satellite navigation system, distance-measuring equipment, upgraded radio altimeters and new radar with two multifunctional indicators. Engineers from Antonov were sent to the IAF repot in Kanpur to oversee work on the remaining 65 An-32s. But they left midway through the effort, even as the IAF started working with private manufacturers for indigenization of components such as nuts, bolts, washers, pipelines, rubber seals unions, joints, harnesses, filters and electronic items.

India’s largest MRO, Air India Engineering Services Ltd. (AIESL), would do this work at the recently completed Boeing overhaul facility in Nagpur. The company has already been selected to do future overhauls on the Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I Poseidons. “Our new six narrow-body hangars are unlike any other in India, and we can work on three An-32s at a time. We estimated it will take 206 days to complete each aircraft,” chief executive officer of AIESL H.R Jagannath told AIN. But he warned that reliable supply of spare parts is essential. Last April, AIN reported that Antonov was unable to obtain any Russian-made An-32 components.  An Indian vendor told AIN recently that more than 40 aircraft in the IAF fleet had been cannibalized.

According to recent media reports in both India and Russia, the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA) project to replace the An-32s has foundered on choice of powerplant and cost. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) and United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) supposedly signed a contract in 2012 for the twinjet, high-wing, T-tail design. The IAF would take 45 with another 100 going to the Russian air force. UAC believes that the Aviadvigatel PS-90A turbofan is the best solution, whereas HAL wants a new powerplant that includes Fadec.