Source : Indian Defence Analysis
|Indian Air Force is said to have been impressed by the performance of the Airbus A-400M transport aircraft that can be manufactured in the TATA-Airbus C-295 aircraft joint venture plant in Vadodara, Gujarat|
China continues to maintain 60,000 Chinese troops opposite the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. China has the advantage of motorable roads and superior infrastructure on its side of the LAC. India with the help of BRO is catching up but at present its relying more on its fixed wings and rotary assets for troop movement and logistics deployment.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) presently operates a fleet of Russian and American built transport aircraft comprised of Boeing 11 C-17 Globemaster IIIs, 14 Ilyushin IL-76s, 12 Lockheed Martin C-130Js and more than 90 Antonov AN-32.
Need for more strategic air lifters
The production lines are closed of C-17 because of which additional C-17 cannot be ordered. The IL 76 transport fleets were acquired in the early ’80s from the Soviet Union is also aging fast and has low availability due to serviceability issues. As per CAG report, the required average serviceability rate set by the air force for its transport aircraft fleet is 70 per cent, but the Il-76 and Il-78 fleet’s average serviceability rate between 2010-2016 was 38 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively.
The Antonov AN-32 will also start phasing out from 2030, however they can be replaced with Tata-Airbus C-295 aircraft. The need to replace these aircraft has become even more urgent due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which complicates the availability of spares for IL-76 and AN-32 aircrafts. Indian Air Force needs more strategic air lifters as it allows troops and equipment to be shifted between theatres rapidly.
The Indian Air force has released a Request for Information for Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA). The IAF has requested OEMs/ Authorised Vendors to forward information on their product which they can offer as per the parameters and specification listed in RFI. The MTA would be used for various roles of transport aircraft between 18 to 30 Tons of cargo carrying capacity. The air force has requested the price for a batch of 40 aircraft/ 60 aircraft / 80 aircraft. This indicates that IAF is willing to purchase maximum 80 such aircrafts. The deliveries of the aircraft is expected to commence from 3 years after the signing of the contract. The most probable contender for this category is going to be A400M aircraft by AirBus
Airbus A400M Atlas
The Airbus A400M is a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. The A400M is sized between the C-130 and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
On 30th October 2022, PM Narendra Modi has laid the foundation for the he C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing plant, in Vadodara, Gujarat after the definition and design phase of the Indian version of the C295 successfully passed the Preliminary Design Review and Critical Design Review stages. The first Indian Air Force (IAF) C295 will be delivered in the third quarter of 2023, including all Indian design changes and modifications.
After securing the final contract worth $2 Billion for C295 medium transport aircraft (MTA) from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Coast Guard (ICG), Airbus is now pitching for its A400M Atlas turboprop military transport aircraft to further boost India’s strategic reach.
It can carry heavier payload than the C-130 and is able to use rough landing strips. In addition to its transport capabilities, the A400M can perform aerial refueling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment. The firm claims that the manufacturing plant of C295 can also be used for A400M. Earlier it has also been reported that IAF is impressed by the performance of A400M aircraft.
The A400M “Atlas” is the touted to be most advanced, proven and certified airlifter available, combining 21st century state-of-the-art technologies. It combines the capability to carry strategic loads with the ability to deliver even into tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips and can act as a frontline-tanker. As per airbus its one aircraft that can do the work of three i.e. act as a tactical airlifter, transporting men and material to frontline air bases, landing on a grass and/or sand strip as well as the delivery of paratroopers or pallets by air drop. As a strategic air lifter, it can transport outsized and heavy vehicles or equipment. The aircraft can also be modified to perform the role of a refueler.
The aircraft is powered by 4 × Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engine and has maximum take-off weight of 141,000 kg. It can carry 37,000 kg of payload which can include 116 fully equipped soldiers, or 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel. It has huge cargo compartment having width of 4.00 m (13.12 ft) x height of 3.85 m (12.6 ft) x length of 17.71 m (58.1 ft). The aircraft has maximum speed of Mach 0.72. It has a range of 3,300km at max payload and 6,400 km with 20-ton payload. Its tactical take off distance is 980m and tactical landing distance is 770m.