India will sign a $2.5-billion contract his year for the supply of 56 medium transport aircraft to the Indian Air Force to replace its fleet of aging Avro-748 planes, officials familiar with the development said on Tuesday.
Airbus Defence and Space and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) will jointly execute the project to equip the air force with 56 C-295 transport aircraft under the Make-in-India initiative in the aerospace sector.
Under the contract, Airbus will supply the first 16 aircraft in flyaway condition while the remaining 40 will be assembled in India by TASL, the officials said.
The procurement of 56 C-295 from Airbus with participation of an Indian production agency for the manufacture of 40 aircraft (out of total 56) in India is at financial approval stage and the contract is likely to be signed in the near future, the defence ministry said in its year-end review.
"The case is first of its kind which envisages participation of private companies and would prove to be a boost for our defence industry," the ministry said.
While the C-295s are meant to replace the Avro-748 transport planes, the new aircraft will also be suitable for demanding roles that the AN-32 currently undertakes, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.
The Avro-748 entered service in the early 1960s and has been long due for replacement, said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
"The replacement C-295 project has been in the works for the past eight years and has spawned a new term --- the Avro model --- in the acquisition field due the unique path adopted. Actually, there is an acquisition fatigue that has crept in, a state that needs to be broken by actually inducting the aircraft that is sorely required by the IAF. The C-295 would also be the natural replacement for AN-32s which too would be getting phased out soon," Bahadur said.
The first 16 planes will be supplied in two years, and the deliveries of the 40 locally-assembled ones will be spread over an additional eight years. The aircraft can operate from short, unprepared airstrips and carry out a variety of missions in all-weather conditions.
The contract for buying 83 LCA Mk 1A aircraft for the IAF from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is also likely to be signed soon after approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security, the ministry said its review. Last March, the defence ministry gave a green light to the purchase of 83 advanced Tejas jets from HAL. The deal is expected to be worth Rs 38,000 crore.
The deal for the 83 Mk-1A jets will take the total number of Tejas variants ordered to 123.
The 40 LCAs already ordered by the IAF are in the initial operational clearance (IOC) and the more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations. The LCA Mk-1A will come with additional improvements over the FOC aircraft, making it the most advanced Tejas variant so far.
The Mk-1A variant is expected to come with digital radar warning receivers, external self-protection jammer pods, active electronically scanned array radar, advanced beyond-visual-range missiles and significantly improved maintainability.
India is also likely to sign a deal with Israel for additional Harop (P-IV) loitering weapon systems in the first quarter of 2021, the year-end review said. The Harop is designed to locate and attack high-value targets with precision. The weapon (also known as a suicide drone) tracks the target, dives on to it and detonates the warhead on impact, according to its maker Israel Aerospace Industries.