Airbus to deliver first C295 to IAF in September, Make in India to follow
The delivery of the first C295 will come two years after the defence ministry signed the contract with Airbus
SEVILLE (SPAIN): Indian Air Force (IAF) crews will carry out acceptance trials of India’s first C295 transport aircraft at the Airbus Defence and Space’s Seville facility in southern Spain in early September before taking delivery of the plane and flying it to the country, setting in motion a crucial Make in India project worth ₹21,935-crore project to equip the IAF with 56 such aircraft to modernise its transport fleet, Airbus officials aware of the matter said on Wednesday.
Forty of those planes are to be built in India, and work on domestic production is in full swing, the officials said.
The first aircraft completed its maiden flight in May while the second one is in final assembly at Airbus’s Seville facility and will be delivered to IAF in May 2024.
The delivery of the first C295 will come two years after the defence ministry signed the contract with Airbus to boost self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector. Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Airbus are jointly executing the programme.
Six IAF pilots and 20 technicians have been trained at the Seville facility, the final assembly line for the transport aircraft, said Jorge Tamarit, head of the C295 India programme.
Another 18 pilots and 60 technicians will be trained at Seville next year, he said.
The 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 first sixteen C295 aircraft will be delivered to the IAF by Airbus in flyaway condition from Spain, and the remaining 40 will be assembled in India. The indigenous content in the planes is set to gradually increase, peaking with the 32nd aircraft onwards, Tamarit said.
The main constituent assembly for the C295 set up by Tata at Hyderabad will be functional next week, while the final assembly line in Vadodara will be operational in November 2024, said Jorge Madrid, another senior Airbus official associated with the Indian programme. The Hyderabad facility will focus on manufacturing and assembly of C295 parts that will go into the building of the full aircraft at the Vadodara plant. A training centre for C295 crews will be ready in Agra next year, he said.
In October 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the manufacturing facility being set up by the Tata-Airbus consortium at Vadodara. The C295 will be the first military aircraft to be manufactured in India by a private consortium.
The 16 aircraft in flyaway condition will be delivered between September 2023 and August 2025, while the first Made in India C295 will roll out of the Vadodara facility in September 2026 and the remaining 39 by August 2031, officials said.
“The delivery schedule is really aggressive, but Airbus is working at full steam to deliver an essential capability to the IAF and strengthen India’s aerospace and defence sector,” Tamarit said.
IAF will be the world’s largest operator of the C295. The aircraft was ordered as a replacement for the IAF’s fleet of ageing Avro-748 planes that entered service in the early 1960s.
As part of the C295 India project, the manufacture of more than 13,000 parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all major component assemblies will be carried out in the country. Around 3,500 parts are likely to be locally produced in India every year, Tamarit said.
“The local content will increase progressively in the aircraft assembled in India as part of the main constituent assembly transfer plan. It covers everything from winglets to fuselage and aerostructures to several control units,” Tamarit said.
To be sure, equipment such as engines, landing gear and avionics will be provided by Airbus, and integrated into the aircraft by the consortium. The tactical airlifter is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127G turboprop engines.
The final assembly line in India (the first one outside Spain) will have a capacity for 12 aircraft per year and will be operated by Tata with the same standards as the C295 final assembly line in Seville, Tamarit said.
The C295 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.
The Avro replacement project was in the works for more than a decade before the C295 contract was signed. The defence acquisition council, India’s apex defence procurement body, gave its acceptance of necessity (AoN) in 2012 to replace the Avro planes with 56 new aircraft. Under India’s defence procurement rules, AoN by the council is the first step towards buying military hardware.
The C295 final assembly line in India is the first concrete, large-scale Make-in-India defence programme in the private sector that will unlock the industrial value chain of design, manufacturing, assembly, testing, delivery, and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft, the officials said.
The C295 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 for para dropping troops and cargo, and will strengthen the logistics capabilities of the IAF.
Apart from the 56 planes already ordered, the C295 facility at Vadodara will be capable of meeting the additional requirements of the Indian military and catering to export orders. The Airbus-Tata combine is in talks with the defence ministry for meeting the navy and coast guard’s requirement for nine and six maritime aircraft respectively, officials said.
All 56 aircraft will be fitted with the indigenous electronic warfare suite developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited. While BEL has supplied the radar warning receiver and the missile approach warning system, BDL has provided the countermeasure dispensing system, the officials said.
After the completion of delivery of 56 aircraft to the IAF, Airbus-Tata combine will be allowed to sell the aircraft manufactured in India to civilian operators and export to countries cleared by New Delhi.
The project will provide a boost to India’s aerospace ecosystem and generate 15,000 highly skilled and 10,000 direct jobs, officials added.
The Airbus-Tata combine has identified more than 125 domestic MSME suppliers spread across seven states.
(The writer is in Spain at the invitation of Airbus Defence and Space)