IAF requires 'at least' 150 C295 medium transport aircraft: Airbus

The Defence Acquisition Council had cleared the IAF's plan to buy 56 C295s in 2015

C295 Airbus A C295 | Airbus

Pan-European aerospace manufacturer Airbus is confident of closing a long-pending deal to supply India with its C295 multi-role transport aircraft.

In a report on FlightGlobal.com, Airbus officials were optimistic of progress in the deal to supply 56 C295 transport variant to the Indian Air Force. The Indian Coast Guard is also buying six maritime patrol variants of the C295.

The C295 is a multi-role transport aircraft that can carry a maximum payload of 9.25 tonnes. It has a range of 2,000 nautical miles when carrying 6 tonnes; it can carry up to 71 troops. According to Airbus, a total of 209 C295 aircraft have been ordered by 28 countries across the world. As its dimensions are smaller than the Indian Air Force's existing fleet of C-130J, C-17 and IL-76 transport aircraft, the C295 can take off and land at a wider variety of airfields.

The Defence Acquisition Council had cleared the Indian Air Force's plan to buy 56 C295 aircraft in 2015, with the Coast Guard order following later. The Indian Air Force selected the C295 as the replacement for its ageing fleet of Avro 748 transport aircraft. The Indian Air Force has a total fleet of over 50 Avro 748 aircraft. The first Avro aircraft for the Indian Air Force flew in 1961.

The C295 aircraft was pitched to India jointly by Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Limited. The two companies plan to build the first 16 aircraft at an Airbus facility in Spain and the remainder would be built by Tata Advanced Systems Limited near Bengaluru. However, progress in the deal has been slow.

In March this year, the ministry of defence concluded price negotiations with Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Limited; the estimated value of the contract for 62 aircraft is $3.15 billion.

Speaking to FlightGlobal.com, Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence & Space, said he believed the Indian Air Force's requirement for the C295 could grow to “at least 150 [aircraft] and beyond".

Hoke also foresaw the possibility of exports of the C295 from India, calling it a "real Make-in-India" project. Alberto Gutierrez, another Airbus official, told FlightGlobal.com that all "administrative processes" for the C295 purchase are being fulfilled, adding "there is nothing to make us think that the contract isn’t going to happen".

While the C295 is being projected as the Indian Air Force's replacement for its Avro fleet, the aircraft is also considered a contender to replace the fleet of Antonov An-32 transport aircraft bought from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The Indian Air Force currently operates around 100 An-32 aircraft. The upgrade programme for the An-32 has been stalled by the tension between Ukraine and Russia in recent decades.

Airbus touts the C295 as being capable of multiple roles including anti-submarine warfare, air-to-air refuelling and a platform for airborne early warning radar. Airbus also has a 'gunship' variant of the C295, armed with guns and air-to-ground missiles for the purpose of providing air support to ground troops.

During the Aero India airshow in February, DRDO unveiled plans for a maritime patrol variant of the C-295 and an airborne early warning variant for the Indian Air Force, which would use the same radar as used by the indigenous 'Netra' system.