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IAF to get first C295 in September, Make in India to follow, says Airbus

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Apr 9, 2023
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Seville (Southern Spain): The Hyderabad-based facility of the TATA Group in collaboration with European aviation major Airbus has begun the manufacturing of the C-295 transport aircraft that will replace the ageing Avro fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Also, the initial set of six pilots have finished their training in Spain and the first lot of aircraft engineers of the IAF are now being trained to carry out maintenance of the aircraft that will be stationed at 10 operating bases.

The IAF has also entered into a five-year Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) agreement with Airbus, making the company contractually obligated to ensure 85 percent availability for the fleet at any point in time. This means that at any point in time, 85 percent of the fleet has to be operationally ready and not be in servicing or wait of spare parts.

While the IAF has ordered 56 C-295 aircraft — each capable of carrying cargo up to 9 tonnes — Airbus officials confirmed that they, along with TATA, are in talks with the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard for the procurement of up to 15 additional aircraft of which nine will be deployed for maritime surveillance.

However, sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the BSF which also operates the Avros, is looking at procuring C-295 aircraft, besides one of the security agencies that is looking to use the aircraft for technical surveillance.

Moreover, the TATA group could also market this aircraft to other countries.

“We have 56 aircraft to produce and 40 of them in India. The first logical answer is let us do what we have been paid to do,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems, Airbus. He was replying to a query about the future growth of the C-295 programme.

“Certainly yes, not only we hope but we believe. It is a great aircraft for the country. Fifty-six is a lot and not a lot at the same time,” he said. Dumont added that there could be “regional opportunities for the aircraft served from India”.

1st delivery by Sept, indigenous aircraft by 2026
Talking about the ongoing work on the C-295 aircraft, Airbus officials said the first aircraft will be handed over to the IAF this September and the second is already on the final assembly line and will be delivered in May next year.

According to the $3 billion deal with Airbus Defence and Space, Spain signed in September 2021, the first 16 aircraft will be delivered in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line here in Seville, Spain. The delivery is to be completed by September 2025.

The remaining 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.

The first India-made aircraft will be delivered in 2026 and the remaining 39 will be delivered by 2031.

“Work on the Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) Line at the TASL facility in Hyderabad has begun this month,” said Jorge Tamarit, Head of Airbus’s C-295 India programme. MCA is the initial assembly of various parts. The rear fuselage will be the first to be worked upon.

While a majority of the work will be done in Hyderabad and production of parts will be done at the TASL facility in Nagpur, the final assembly line will be set up in Gujarat’s Vadodara by mid-next year. Parts like fuselage and others made in Hyderabad will be shipped to Gujarat for the final assembly.

Tamarit said that with 56 aircraft, the IAF will be the largest operator of the fleet in the world, though there are 34 other countries that use this aircraft.

Incidentally, this will be the first time in history that an Indian private company will make an aircraft. “We are building a full production system in India and this is a first for Airbus,” Tamarit told a select group of reporters here. He added that Airbus does have a final assembly line or pre-assembly line in some countries but not the full production system.

Talking about the collaboration with TATA, Tamarit said it involves nearly 90 percent of technology transfer. In terms of man hours, the aircraft will be built whole in India from the 30th aircraft onwards, he added. This means that there will be no work done by Airbus on the rest of the order outside the country.

Airbus officials said 14,000 parts of the aircraft are being indigenised by the TATA group at the rate of about 4,000 every year. The only parts that will not be indigenised are those which are non-Airbus – like the landing gear & engine. The IAF C295s being built in Spain also have a handful of crucial Indian systems, including radar and missile warning systems supplied by the state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and a counter-measure dispensing system supplied by Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL).

Further, Airbus is also setting up a training centre for the IAF in Agra which will have simulators and will be completed by the end of 2024. In addition, Uttar Pradesh will host a warehouse for the C-295 parts. India is also in talks with Airbus to set up a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) hub for this aircraft, which is operated by a number of countries in the region, including the UAE, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Indonesia.
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