TATA Airbus Teaming up for Tactical Transport for IAF
It’s from the stables of IAF again, a new replacement project seems to have reached the final rounds of negotiations. The new Modi-led government has re-issued the request for proposal (RFP) for 56 transport aircraft worth an estimated $2 billion. These aircraft will be replacements for the aging Hawker Sidley 748M twin turboprops serving the IAF as tactical transport aircraft which are being retired at an alarming rate. The tactical transport aircraft is basically used to carry out recon missions, ferry Special Forces and play a major role in causality evacuation from the battlefield. RFP for this program was floated several years ago but was cancelled after several loopholes were brought to notice by the vendors.
With the need for these aircrafts being urgent, any plans for co-development would have hampered the operational capabilities of the air force. Being the first deal, to be signed under private partnership program, the deal promised to nurture the ‘Make in India’ campaign will to newer horizons. In accordance to the deal, the Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will be liable to supply 16 aircraft in fly away condition and another 40 aircraft will be manufactured in India under a TOT. Though the deal offers a reliable platform to foreign players, the deal has been for long haunted by the private partnership the vendors have to sign up. Initially the deal received heightened interests from foreign vendors but with the private partnership in deadlocks most of the vendors pulled out of the deal, except for Airbus. Facing a single vendor scenario, the deal has been now referred to the DAC chaired by the MoD will now decide the future path of the deal.
Initially Antonov’s An-26, the Ilyushin Il-112, Alenia Aermacchi C-27J and EADS Casa C-295 were eager to be part of the deal. Airbus formed a consortium with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL). The other foreign vendors were in talk with L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra but failed to sign up with any Indian companies largely due to the persistent ToT clauses. Airbus then pitched up its C295 as a competitor for the program. IAF at the present operates a sizeable fleet of An-26 and had showed inclination towards the aircraft but Antonov till date has not been able to form a consortium with any Indian firms, even though L&T was rumoured to be in talks with Antonov the deal between them never materialized.
With Modi visiting Airbus facility during his trip to France, the deal is probably headed towards C 295. Furthermore the present government has shown renewed interested in inviting foreign investments. Airbus released a statement reaffirming its "commitment to produce in India," echoing Modi's “Make in India” mantra. Tom Enders, Airbus executive was quoted saying “India already plays an important role in our international activities and we even want to increase its contribution to our products".
The C295 is closely associated with the Spanish-Indonesian co-developed CN235 aircraft for its roots lay with the aircraft. Airbus started out by modifying the basic designs of CN235, with plans to enhance the lift capability of the CN235, Airbus stretched the fuselage considerably and this saw the birth of C295 with a 50% increased lift capability. The CN235 was powered by two GE CT7 series engines, with weight added up to the aircraft, the CT7 failed to power the aircraft. Airbus soon zeroed in on the PW 127 series engine to power the aircraft. The aircraft has a wing span of 84 ft and is 80 ft in length. C295 witnessed its maiden flight in late 1998.
The C295 is a new generation, highly versatile and combat proven tactical airlift aircraft. The aircraft is capable of carrying payloads up to nine tonnes. Powered by two powerful six bladed Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprop engines which collectively produce 5290 hp the aircraft can attain a maximum cruising speed of 480 km. The aircraft is also fitted with a pressurized cabin which can house up to 70 passengers and can attain a cruising altitude of 30000 feet. The short take-off & landing (STOL) feature guarantees the aircraft can land in short and rough airstrips or make shift airstrips and serve the nerve center of the battle field.
The aircraft is designed with a pressurized 41 feet long cabin which can accommodate up to 70 personnel and the cargo hold employs the state-of-the art pallet system. The cabin has dedicated pallet systems which can carry up to five pallets measuring nearly 88 X 108 In and can carry cargo weighing up to 4,536 Kilos on one pallet.
To facilitate easier movement of the cargo from the hold the aircraft is provided with a rear ramp door, through which the cargo can be off-loaded efficiently. Provided with the STOL the aircraft can take off and land from any unsurfaced/unprepared airstrip and this will help the forces a long way since the aircraft can land supplies or evacuate causalities right from the center of the battlefield. The aircraft requires a minimum of 2200 ft of runaway to takeoff under normal operating conditions and will need around 1050 ft of runway for a safe landing. The aircraft provides 1300 km of operational range at maximum load and with minimal load the aircraft provides a range of up to 5000 km.
The avionics package of the aircraft is robust and carries forward most of the systems from its predecessor the CN235. Most of these systems have received upgrades over time and form a versatile avionics function for an aircraft like C295, the systems are basic and the operational cost of these systems is minimal. Thales avionics provided the rest of the avionics package. Highly Integrated Avionics System (HIAS), an advanced integrated avionics system based on the Thales Topdeck avionics suite. The C295 glass cockpit with digital avionics includes four large active matrix liquid crystal displays.
The main stay radar of the aircraft will be the AN/APN241 radar which comes with a high resolution SAR mapping mode. The main update the C295 received was the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) which will enhance the patrol and surveillance to a great extent. Equipped with FITS the aircraft can perform an array of missions be it anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare or SAR operations the FITS will enable the crew to work more efficiently using its automated control features.
FITS is a system entirely developed by Airbus, an on-board suite of networked computers and displays provides the crew with the required information in a processed manner which allows the crew to work efficiently. The aircraft comes with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and Laser Warning System (LWS), and chaff/flares dispensers. The aircraft will be equipped with an integrated electronic warfare suite, which includes a Bharat Electronics radar warning receiver and missile approach warning system and Bharat Dynamics countermeasure dispensing system.
Editor Karthik Kakoor