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The TATA-Airbus consortium’s manufacturing facility in Gujarat’s Vadodara will be the first plant in the private sector to make a military aircraft. The C-295 medium transport aircraft are planned to replace IAF’s fleet of ageing Avro-748 planes

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on October 30 lay the foundation stone of a manufacturing facility being set up by the TATA-Airbus consortium at Vadodara in Gujarat for C-295 medium transport aircraft to modernise the Indian Air Force’s transport fleet, top defence ministry officials said on Thursday.

The development is significant as a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private consortium for the first time. It comes more than a year after the defence ministry signed a ₹21,935-crore contract with Airbus Defence and Space for 56 C-295 planes to give push to the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (self-reliant India campaign). TATA Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Airbus Defence and Space will jointly execute the programme. The C-295s will replace the IAF’s fleet of ageing Avro-748 planes that entered service in the early 1960s.

Defence secretary Ajay Kumar said 16 C-295 aircraft will be delivered by Airbus in flyaway condition from Spain, and the remaining 40 will be manufactured in India by TATA consortium of TASL and TATA Consultancy Services.

The 16 flyaway aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between September 2023 and August 2025, while the first Made in India aircraft will roll out of the new facility in September 2026 and the remaining 39 by August 2031, Kumar said.

This translates into a production rate of eight aircraft per year at the Vadodara facility. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka were the other states competing for the project.

“The indigenous content in the planes will be the highest ever in India, and 96% of the work that Airbus does in Spain will now be done at the new facility,” Kumar added.

The C-295 can carry up to nine tonnes of payload or 71 personnel (or 45 paratroopers) and has a maximum speed of 480 kmph. It can also operate from short or unprepared airstrips, has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo, and will strengthen the logistic capabilities of IAF, officials said.

The C-295 exceeds the performance of the Avro and the AN-32 transport planes, and is extremely fuel efficient, said IAF vice chief Air Marshal Sandeep Singh.

“The fighter aircraft and helicopter manufacturing ecosystem is in place in the country. The production of C-295s in India will provide a significant boost to the transport segment. In the long term, these planes could even serve as a possible replacement for AN-32s,” said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

Apart from the 56 planes already ordered, the C-295 facility at Vadodara will be capable of meeting additional requirement of the air force and also cater to export orders, Hindustan Times has learnt.

“The project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into technology intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. It will augment domestic aviation manufacturing resulting in reduced import dependence and expected increase in exports,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

All 56 aircraft will be fitted with indigenous electronic warfare suite developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited. After completion of delivery of 56 aircraft to IAF, Airbus Defence and Space will be allowed to sell the aircraft manufactured in India to civil operators and export to countries cleared by New Delhi, the defence ministry said.

The project will provide a boost India’s aerospace ecosystem and generate thousands of jobs.

“The TATA consortium has identified more than 125 domestic MSME suppliers spread across seven states. This will act as a catalyst for employment generation and is expected to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, over 3,000 indirect jobs and an additional 3,000 medium skill employment opportunities,” the statement said. Also, around 240 engineers will be trained at the Airbus facility in Spain.

Manufacturing of more than 13,400 parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all major component assemblies will be carried out in the country, while some equipment such as engines, landing gear and avionics will be provided by Airbus Defence and Space, and integrated on the aircraft by the TATA consortium, the defence ministry said.

The Avro replacement project has been in the works for more than a decade. The defence acquisition council — India’s apex defence procurement body — gave its acceptance of necessity (AoN) to replace the Avro planes with 56 new aircraft in 2012. Under India’s defence procurement rules, AoN by the council is the first step towards buying military hardware.

It is the first Make in India aerospace program in the private sector involving the full development of a complete industrial ecosystem; from manufacture to assembly, test and qualification, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft, Airbus Defence and Space and TASL had earlier said in a joint statement.

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