Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA February 2014 Contents TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT
supporting special forces operations.
The IAF's 1960s-era HS 748s have been used
heavily over the last decades and are in need of
replacement. Around 2015 they will be phased out
by new aircraft with a payload of 13-17 000 lb (6-8
tons), which will fill the gap below the C-130J and
MTA for missions like troop insertion and resupply
in places with short runways and small dropping
zones. In May 2013 the IAF issued a tender for the
new aircraft, to Alenia Aeronautica (C-27J Spartan),
Airbus Military (C295), Ilyushin (Il-114) and Embraer.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have also been invited
to bid. The C295 and C-27J are expected to be the
finalists in this procurement programme.
The first 16 new aircraft will be bought directly
from the manufacturer, which will partner with an
Indian firm to locally produce the remaining 40
locally as part of the US$2.5-3 billion deal. Of these,
16 must have 30% indigenous content and the
remaining 24 must have 60% local content. The first
16 aircraft must be delivered within two years of
contract signature while the Indian government has
stipulated that manufacture of the final 24 must be
completed within ten years.
Proposals were originally to be submitted by early
October 2013, but this was extended to December
and now March 8, 2014. In order to break the
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited aerospace monopoly,
India is trying to get local private aerospace firms
involved in the contract, but has not had much luck
so far as there are few private companies to choose
from and the order for new aircraft is rather small to
justify local production.
This decision has upset some at HAL, but
the company is already overburdened with the
manufacture of fighters, trainers and helicopters.
HAL has experience manufacturing transport aircraft
and has produced the Dornier Do 228 under license
since the mid-1980s - low rate production continues
for the Indian Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and civil
operators. More than 120 have been manufactured
by HAL so far, with most going to the military.
HAL is set to partner with National Aerospace
Laboratories (NAL) to produce 15 of its Saras
light transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
NAL is testing a re-engined and modified version
of the 14-seat twin
has suffered a long
gestation period -- it
first flew in May 2004
has been delayed,
notably by a crash in
In IAF service the
Saras would be used
for troop transport,
training, light cargo
and VIP transport
duties and would
most likely operate
alongside the VIP
fleet of three Boeing BBJs and four Embraer Legacy
600 business jets.
For vertical cargo transport the Indian Air Force
operates three surviving Mil Mi-26 helicopters,
able to each carry 20 tons. However, these aircraft
have been underutilised since being delivered in
the 1980s and were poorly maintained. To replace
these ageing aircraft, the IAF in 2011 conducted
flight trials of Boeing's CH-47F Chinook and the
modernised Mi-26T2. In late 2012 the Chinook
was selected as the preferred aircraft due to lower
acquisition and life cycle costs (the fact that it can
be transported inside a C-17 is another bonus).
Contract negotiations then began for six aircraft and
were expected to be finalised by December 2013,
with deliveries within 54 months of that.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy is seeking a medium
range maritime reconnaissance aircraft with anti-ship
missiles that could double as a transport. In August
2013 a request for proposals for nine aircraft was
sent to Airbus Military (C295MPA), Alenia (ATR
72MPA, Antonov (An-70), Boeing, Elta (Q400),
Lockheed Martin (Sea Hercules), Saab (340/2000)
and Embraer (EMB-145).
In addition to its transport fleet, the Indian Air Force
is also seeking to upgrade its tanking capability,
which at present consists of six Il-78MKIs procured
from Uzbekistan in 2003 and fitted with Israeli
refuelling equipment. They have been used to support
IAF exercises across the globe, including to Alaska.
The Indian Air Force is struggling to acquire an
additional six tankers -- a tender was cancelled in
January 2010 due to cost but Airbus Military's A330
MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) again beat the
Il-78 to become the preferred aircraft in a second
tender. Although Airbus Military in January 2013
was selected as the preferred bidder due to lower
life cycle costs, the October 2013 death of Arun
Kumar Bal, Ministry of Defence chief negotiator
for air acquisitions, has caused several months of
delays for most IAF acquisitions. The MRTT deal
was hardest hit, as it was only a month away from
contract signing at the time of Bal's death.
The tankers will be used as force multipliers to
give the IAF's Su-30MKIs the ability to penetrate
deep into China. They will be fitted with hose and
drogue systems (as with the Il-78s) and will be
based in the Eastern sector in Panagarh, West
Bengal. Because the A330 MRTT already carries
245 000 lb (109 tons) of fuel, additional fuel tanks
are unnecessary, allowing the aircraft to also carry
300 troops or 99 000 lb (44 tons) of cargo or 130
stretchers, becoming a useful transport aircraft.
The IAF wishes to buy another six tankers in
addition to the A330MRTTs as it increases it
squadron strength to 40 by 2022. It recently
announced that once the MiG-21s and MiG-27s are
retired, all its fighters will have refuelling capability.
Aircraft like the C-17, Il-76/78, A-50 and, in the
future the A330 MRTT, are force multipliers that
are giving the Indian Air Force transoceanic reach
and influence, allowing it to protect its territorial
and economic interests from the Persian Gulf to
the Straits of Malacca. Such capacity also gives it
the ability to deploy in case of disasters or acts of
piracy or terrorism and also keeps the balance of
power with Pakistan and China. Although the IAF's
big ticket items like fighter jets cause most concern
amongst India's neighbours, the capabilities of force
multipliers like tankers and transports are not to be
Multi-Role Tanker Transport
Credit: Airbus Military
In addition to its transport fleet, the Indian Air Force is also seeking to upgrade its tanking capability, which at
present consists of six Il-78MKIs procured from Uzbekistan in 2003 and fitted with Israeli refuelling equipment.
18 DefenceReviewAsia | FEB 2014
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