The Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari received the first C-295 transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space at Seville in Spain on September 13, during a handing over ceremony attended by representatives from both the countries. The delivery of the aircraft marks a significant milestone in IAF’s quest for a robust and modern air transport fleet. The Air Chief took a sortie in the C-295 aircraft for about half an hour.
The multirole aircraft is the first of the 56 planes ordered by IAF in September 2021. The European plane maker will deliver the first 16 planes in ‘fly-away’ condition, while the rest will be manufactured in India at a Tata facility in Gujarat’s Vadodara under India’s first-ever ‘Make in India’ Aerospace programme in the private sector to boost self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector.
On receiving India’s first C-295 aircraft, Air Chief Marshal said, “It gives a tremendous boost to the capability of moving our forces to the frontline when required.”
Speaking to BharatShakti at the Airbus manufacturing facility in Seville, Spain The Air Chief said, “Part of this contract – 16 aircraft- will roll out from this facility and the 17th aircraft will roll out from Vadodara in India in 2026. This will be a significant millstone in terms of manufacturing capabilities of India.”
Commenting on the role of the C-295 project that will support self-reliance in India’s defence manufacturing, the Air Chief said, “As a part of this contract more than 13000 parts, 7600 sub-assemblies are going to be manufactured in India. More than 125 MSMEs are going to be part of it so the whole ecosystem of defence manufacturing is going to establish.”
India’s Ambassador to Spain, Dinesh Patnaik informed BharatShakti that, “European companies are responding to Indian manufacturing ecosystem needs and they are part of the supply chain as part of ‘Invest India’ and ‘Come India’, and we are helping these foreign companies to settle in India.”
The delivery of the first C-295 materialized two years after India signed a contract with Airbus to replace the legacy Avro fleet of the IAF at a cost of Rs. 21,935 crore. Under the deal, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain while the remaining 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
As per the delivery timeline, the IAF’s second C-295 is in final assembly at Airbus’s Seville factory and will be delivered in May 2024, followed by scheduled deliveries of one aircraft every month until 2025, while the first “made in India” C-295 will roll out of the Vadodara facility in September 2026 and the remaining 39 by August 2031, within 10 years of signing of the contract.
In October 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Vadodara manufacturing facility. The C-295 will be the first military aircraft to be manufactured in India by a private consortium. This is also the first time Airbus will have a full production system in another country outside Spain. The final assembly line in Vadodara will have a capacity for 12 aircraft per year.
A comprehensive final inspection and several flight tests were carried out before the aircraft was delivered to IAF today, informed officials. Six IAF pilots and 20 technicians have thus far been trained at the Seville facility. Another 18 pilots and 60 technicians will be trained at Seville next year. This first plane will be flown to India by a four-man IAF crew, including the two pilots, and supported by an Airbus pilot and a flight engineer.
The Indian Air Force will be the world’s largest operator of the C-295. For more than a decade, the Avro replacement project was in the works. Earlier in 2012, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), India’s apex defence procurement body, gave its Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) in 2012 to replace the Avro planes with 56 new aircraft. The C-295 contract covers performance-based logistics support for five years, supply of spares across 10 operating bases for 10 years, ground support and test equipment, and training, the officials said.
C-295: A Multirole Platform
Once inducted, the multirole aircraft will provide a fillip to the IAF’s air transport capacity in carrying troops and material across the country. The C-295 is a new-generation tactical airlifter in the light and medium segment. It is highly versatile in terms of the number of different missions it can perform. It can operate day and night in combat missions in all weather conditions, from desert to maritime, and in extremely hot to extremely cold temperatures. The aircraft can be used for civilian tasks, as well.
The aircraft can operate on short and unpaved runways and can carry up to nine tons of payload or 71 troops, or 48 paratroopers, and has a rear ramp for para dropping troops and cargo. It is capable to taking off from short runways of around 1 km in length and land on semi prepared surfaces. It has flight endurance of up to 11 hours.
It will feature modern avionics, intuitive Human Machine Interface(HMI) with touch controls. It will easy the workload of pilots. The aircraft would have an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite. The Counter Measures Dispensing System (CMDS) for the aircraft will be provided by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) will supply the DRDO’s Radar Warning Receiver RWR and Ultraviolet based Missile Approach Warning System MAWS for the aircraft.
The induction of C-295 aircraft marks a pivotal milestone in modernising the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) transport fleet. The order is also expected to go beyond 56, with more orders expected from the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard as they have shown interest in this aircraft and the current Avro user Border Security Force (BSF). Besides, the Indian-maker Tata is actively exploring opportunities for exporting the C-295, showcasing its potential on the international stage.
Ravi Shankar in Seville, Spain