On Friday, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) inked a $2.5 billion contract for the purchase of 56 Airbus C-295 military aircraft. The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) heritage fleet of Avro HS-748 aircraft will be replaced by these.
Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in “fly-away” condition from its final assembly plant in Seville, Spain, under the conditions of the deal. As part of an industrial collaboration between Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems (TASL), the next 40 aircraft will be produced and assembled in India.
The IAF will be the 35th C-295 operator in the world. Airbus has received orders for 278 of these planes, with 200 now in service.
All the C-295s will be handed over to the IAF in transport configuration and equipped with an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite. The C-295 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW-127 turbo-prop engines, a part of the PW-100 family.
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The C-295 can transport up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers with battle loads. They can ferry supplies to locations that are not accessible to the IAF’s heavier transport aircraft, such as the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules, or Ilyushin 76.
The C-295 can also be used for medical evacuation (medevac), as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, using either basic litters or mobile intensive care units (ICU) with life support equipment. It can also perform special missions, disaster response, and maritime patrol duties.
The effort is a part of overall Indian airforce modernisation program. The IAF has been equipped with some outdated aircraft which are now being replaced with advanced fighter jets such as recently inducted French Rafale fighter jets in order to confront the emerging challenges. Meanwhile, India has also kept close eye to its neighboring China’s PLAAF modernisation which is considered as a threat to India.
Syed Ali Abbas is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies Islamabad and co-founding editor of Global Defense Insight. He tweets @smalinaqvi05.