Airbus to Deliver First C295 Aircraft to Indian Air Force in September

Airbus to Deliver First C295 Aircraft to Indian Air Force in September

Airbus, the renowned planemaker, is set to make a significant delivery to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in September. According to a report by Hindustan Times, India's first tactical military transport aircraft, the C295, will be handed over to the IAF in the coming month.

Before the actual delivery, IAF crews will conduct acceptance trials of the C295 at Airbus Defence and Space's facility in Seville, Spain. The initial batch of 16 C295 aircraft will be delivered to the IAF directly from Spain. However, the remaining 40 planes are planned to be built in India, and preparations for domestic production are already in full swing.

The introduction of the first C295 in India will kickstart a crucial "Make in India" project worth ₹21,935 crore, aimed at equipping the IAF with a total of 56 such aircraft. This project marks a significant milestone, as it is the first-ever aircraft manufacturing venture in India led by the private sector. Until now, military aircraft production had been under the sole purview of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

The C295 is expected to serve as a vital asset for the Indian Air Force, supporting the transportation of personnel, weapons, fuel, and hardware across extensive distances within the country and beyond. While the C295 will handle the lighter end of air transport duties, the IAF currently operates American C-130J Super Hercules planes for medium-category tasks and the massive C-17 Globemaster III for very heavy loads.

Apart from the delivery of the first C295, the Indian Air Force is simultaneously training its pilots to operate these new aircraft. The pilots are currently qualified on the IAF's existing British vintage HS748 Avros, which the C295 will replace, and the workhorse Ukrainian Antonov An-32s, which the C295 might potentially replace in the future.

While Airbus has experience in building the initial 16 C295s in Spain, the real challenge lies in producing the remaining 40 aircraft in India at Tata's facility in Vadodara between 2026 and 2031. This ambitious endeavor puts Airbus under significant pressure to execute the program efficiently, on time, and within budget.

The Tata facility in Hyderabad is playing a crucial role in fabricating major sections of the C295's airframe, including the tail and fuselage. Once these components are ready, they will be transported to Vadodara for final assembly, engine fitting, and electronics integration. The delivery of each C295 is planned at a maximum rate of twelve aircraft per year, with the goal of gradually increasing the percentage of Indian-made materials in each successive delivery.

The C295 project also includes the integration of crucial Indian systems into the aircraft being built in Spain, such as radar and missile warning systems from Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and a counter-measure dispensing system from Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL). With these systems fully integrated, the first aircraft successfully flew on May 8, with seven more expected to be delivered in 2024 and the final eight in 2025. The first Made-in-India C295 will be ready a year later, paving the way for a continuous supply till 2033.

Beyond the initial 56 aircraft, there is potential for even more C295s to be built in Vadodara. The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard have shown interest in acquiring nine and six C295 aircraft, respectively, for maritime surveillance roles. Additionally, the Border Security Force might also opt for a few, and there is even talk of a passenger version catering to the short-haul civil aviation market.

While the project promises significant benefits, including the creation of 15,000 immediate skilled jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs over the next decade, there is a need for cautious handling of the 30% offset obligation. Airbus is obligated to invest or source nearly a third of the ₹21,935 crore deal value in India, making it crucial to ensure optimal absorption and effective channeling of these offset funds for the success of the entire program.

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