Sunday 18 August 2019, 11:00 PM
New transport plane negotiations to replace ageing Avro fleet completed
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 7/10/2019 5:48:11 PM
New transport plane negotiations to replace ageing Avro fleet completed

AN 32 crash brings sharp focus 

On June 3, when an AN 32 Soviet-origin transport plane of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed near Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh killing all 13 on board, it raised questions as to why the IAF and the Ministry of Defence had not purchased new planes to replace the AN 32, fleet that was inducted three-decades ago.  

Attempts to get new planes have been on since 2013 and are now fructifying. In March this year the Ministry of Defence (MoD) concluded price negotiations to acquire a total of 62 Airbus Defence and Space C295 medium transport aircraft (MTA) for IAF, also to be used by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in a  multi-mission maritime role.In 2013, tenders had been sent out to US firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Ukrainian Antonov; Swedish company Saab;  Ilyushin of Russia; and Italian company, Alenia Aeromacchi, besides Airbus.

For various reasons, none of companies, other than Airbus, responded. Some did not have a plane of that specification or were just not interested.Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) concluded its consultations with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) – that is joint venture (JV) between TASL and Airbus for the MTA programme - to procure the 62 platforms for approx US$ 3.15 billion – nearly Rs 22,000 crore.

The Airbus-Tata bid had become a single-vendor procurement, for which MoD sanction needed to be obtained. Indian procurement rules do not permit a single vendor purchase in an open tender unless okayed specifically.This will include 56 planes for the IAF and are actually slated to replace the ageing fleet of the 1950s’ ‘Hawker Siddeley HS 748 Avro’, a medium-sized turboprop plane. Another six planes are for the ICG. 

In 2013 the MoD had okayed the replacement for the Avro and said it needed a twin-engined plane with  six to eight tonnes payload capacity and cruise speed of 800 km per hour with a range of 2,500 to 2,700 km.The programme allows for direct import of 16 of the C295 planes and the local assembly or licence-production of the remaining 46 aircraft by the TASL-Airbus JV near Bangalore. As per the tender floated in 2013, the first 24 of those locally produced need to have a 30 per cent local content and the next 22  are to have 60 percent local content.

The recent crash of the AN 32 transport plane of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that led to questions over flight safety does not mean that the IAF would stop flying the Soviet-origin three decade old fleet. Responding to questions, at a function IAF Chief Air Chief  Marshal BS Dhanoa on being asked if the AN32 will continue to fly including in the Himalayas, said “ off course it will, we have no other option. It’s only when we get a new fleet that some of the tasks can change”.On being asked when will that happen, the IAF Chief said the case for the new purchase ( Airbus C295) is with the (MoD). 

Tags:

AN 32,Soviet-origin,transport,Pradesh,Defence,Lockheed Martin,

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