Indian Air Force Looks To Private Sector for MRO

 - December 11, 2019, 1:08 PM
The IAF is shortly to fly an An-32 on bio-fuel from the mountain airfield at Leh. The service has already trialed the aircraft with a mix containing 10 percent bio-fuel. (photo: Indian Air Force)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is moving ahead with a plan to outsource maintenance of its aging twin-engine Antonov An-32 “Cline” transporters to the private sector. “We want to focus on war-centric capabilities and open up the sector to industry. The government has agreed to subsidize maintenance costs for the private sector,” a senior maintenance official of the IAF told AIN at the annual Aero MRO conference held in New Delhi last week.

The IAF has around 100 An-32s in its inventory, which are currently maintained by military personnel. It wants to partner with industry for the refurbishment and re-equipment of its transport aircraft. Eleven work packages have been selected, to include repainting, wing-structure modification, and ultrasonic inspection.

Initially, the air force plans to “hand-hold” MRO providers to ensure quality control requirements are met. “The Indian MRO industry is still nascent and not mature enough,” commented the IAF official. "Ultimately we would like the industry to take responsibility for certification.” He cautioned that, while some spares could be sourced in India, a reliable supply of spare parts was essential. For the past three years, IAF has been working with private manufacturers on the indigenization of components such as nuts, bolts, washers, pipelines, rubber seals, unions, joints, harnesses, filters, and electronic items.

The upgrade of the An-32s has been caught in a quagmire of geo-politics and sparring between Russia and Ukraine, resulting in delays due to the non-availability of components and spares. In June, a Request for Information for An-32 spares was released by the MoD.

On a more optimistic parallel note, AIN has learned that an An-32 will fly with a jatropha-based bio-fuel later this month as part of the IAF efforts to become more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. No changes have been made to the aircraft for the trials, which are due to take place at the airfield at Leh, one of the world's highest with an elevation of 3,256 meters (10,682 feet).