India’s government has approved the acquisition of 56 Airbus C295MW medium airlifters for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The intended acquisition received initial approval in 2015, but it was not until September 8 that the Cabinet Committee on Security finally signed off the purchase. Supplying the aircraft will be a consortium of Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL).
In line with the nation’s “Make in India” initiative, the initial 16 aircraft will be delivered from Airbus’s Sevilla factory within 48 months of contract signature, with the remainder scheduled to be produced over the following six years at TASL’s new facility near Bengaluru. The Indian defense ministry noted that this is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. The IAF’s C295MWs will be fitted with an indigenous electronic warfare suite.
Led by TASL, Indian industry will manufacture a large number of detail parts and subassemblies. The program is expected to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, and a further 3,000 high-skill jobs indirectly, with a similar number of medium-skill employment opportunities. It is expected that a ‘D’ level MRO facility will be established before the last C295MW is delivered, which may also act as a regional maintenance hub for C295s of several variants.
In IAF service the C295MWs will replace the elderly fleet of British Aerospace HS 748s, commonly referred to in India as the “Avro,” in reference to the company that originally designed it. The IAF acquired around 90, the first entering service in the mid-1960s. They were produced under license by HAL at Bengaluru. Most of the survivors currently serve on staff/cargo transport duties with the communications flights of various command headquarters. The acquisition of C295MWs will not only rejuvenate the aging fleet but also add new capabilities such as being able to air-drop cargo and paratroopers from the rear loading ramp.
Also added to the original deal were six C295MPA maritime patrol aircraft for the Indian Coast Guard, but final approval for their procurement has yet to be given.