February 8, 2023 5:26 am

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Major Boost to Air Defence, India to Manufacture C-295 Transport Aircraft

The infrastructure facility which will be developed under the C-295 project will help India to manufacture commercial aircraft domestically.

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In a significant push to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of a manufacturing facility for C-295 transport aircraft at Vadodara in Gujarat on Sunday(30 October 2022). 

PM also visited an exhibition showcasing technological and manufacturing strides in the aerospace industry under Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

While addressing the gathering, PM Modi said, “India is moving forward with the mantra of ‘Make in India, Make for the Globe'” and that Vadodara, a famous cultural and education centre, will develop a new identity as an aviation sector hub.

It is a historic event in the aviation industry of India as, for the first time, an Indian private company will manufacture tactical transport aircraft. India will also enter an illustrious league of about a dozen nations with the capacity to manufacture such aircraft.

The PM stated that “he can foresee that India will soon be manufacturing big passenger aircraft that will proudly bear the words ‘Made in India’. Transport aircraft manufactured here will give strength to the armed forces and help develop a new ecosystem of aircraft manufacturing.”

With the increasing demand for passenger and cargo aircraft in India, PM stated that India will need more than 2000 aircraft in the next 15 years and that today India has taken a crucial step in the direction of manufacturing these aircraft domestically.

PM Modi also pointed out that an unprecedented environment for manufacturing in the country has been created due to the reforms made by the Government in the last 8 years. He said that post-2014, investment in the aviation sector grew 5 times compared to what was invested from 2000 to 2014.

“We aim to scale our defence manufacturing beyond $25 billion by 2025. Our defence exports will also exceed $5 billion,” said the PM

The C-295 aircraft will be manufactured for the first time outside Europe, which will significantly boost India’s domestic aerospace sector. The total cost of the project is Rs 21,935 crore. 

As part of the contract, 16 aircraft coming from Spain will be delivered in flyaway condition, and 40 others will be manufactured in India by the Indian Aircraft Contractor, TATA Consortium of Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) led by TASL

The first 16 flyaway aircraft are scheduled to be received between September 2023 and August 2025. The first Made in India aircraft is expected in September 2026.

Why is the project significant

It is a major shift in the direction of PM Modi’s vision of making India a manufacturing hub. India has showcased its ability to develop sophisticated defence technology like the development of fighter aircraft (Tejas), aircraft carriers (INS Vikrant), attack helicopters (LCH Prachand) as well as corvettes, frigates and submarines for the Indian Navy.

However, the development of a military transport aircraft was missing in the entire defence industrial complex chain, which will now be filled with the C-295 project. The project will also place India in the list of selected few countries who can develop such aircraft. The manufacturing done by a private firm will also give impetus to the development of a complete aerospace industrial ecosystem in India.

Indian airline companies are one of the world’s biggest buyers of commercial aircraft, with an order book of 1100 aircraft since 2011 and further increasing. The infrastructure facility which will be developed under the C-295 project will help India to manufacture these commercial aircraft domestically.

The infrastructure facility which will be developed under the project will benefit the domestic airlines as the Tata Group-owned Air India(which was privatised by the Government earlier this year) is also scheduled to buy 200 new planes in the future.

C-295MW is a transport aircraft of 5-10 tonne capacity with state-of-the-art technology that will replace the ageing Avro aircraft of IAF. It has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para-dropping troops and cargo. The aircraft will strengthen the logistic capabilities of the IAF.

Various systems, such as engines, landing gear, avionics, EW suite etc., will be provided by Airbus Defence & Space and integrated into the aircraft by the TATA Consortium. 

All 56 aircraft will be fitted with the indigenous Electronic Warfare suite of Indian DPSUs – Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited. After delivering 56 aircraft to IAF, M/s Airbus Defence & Space will be allowed to sell the aircraft manufactured in India to civil operators and export to countries which the Government clears of India.

The project will act as a catalyst in employment generation in the country’s aerospace ecosystem and is expected to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, over 3,000 indirect jobs and an additional 3,000 medium-skill employment opportunities. Nearly 240 engineers will be trained at the Airbus facility in Spain.

The C-295 project will also allow domestic firms to flourish in the technology-intensive aviation industry, resulting in reduced import dependence of India, increasing its export potential.

96% of the total man-hour work per aircraft that Airbus employs at its manufacturing facility in Spain will be undertaken in India giving Indian companies an upper hand in the niche defence technology. 

With the military transport aircraft industry set to reach USD 45 billion by 2030, the project will give an important platform for domestic private firms to tap into this market.

What is a Military transport Aircraft?

A military transport aircraft is a platform used to support military operations by airlifting troops and military equipment. These aircraft are used for special operations and maintaining supply lines to inaccessible places via land and water.

The military transport fleet globally has progressively evolved and today is a mix of platforms designed for strategic and tactical roles. In peacetime, apart from routine tasks for the military, the transport fleet is employed for civilian tasks as well.

With the changing character of warfare, the Indian military decided to replace its ageing transport fleets like the IL-76s, An-32s, six-decade-old HS-748 Avro(which the C-295 will replace) and the Do-228 aircraft. These aircraft lacked performing specialist role capability and were mainly used for logistics support through equipment and personnel movement. 

Ageing Avro Aircraft of IAF

However, considering the fast-changing security environment, India was in dire need of modern capabilities, which prompted the IAF planners to focus on the acquisition of special ops C-130J Super Hercules, C-17 Globemaster and Chinook multi-role heavy lift helicopters.

C-17 Globemaster allows India a truly global reach, as evident in the country’s outreach to far-flung nations for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and COVID-19-associated missions.

IAF’s Globemaster during evacuation mission in Kabul

 With its ramp loading facility, the Chinook has brought in the capability to induct certain categories of heavy equipment in the narrow valleys of the North East, which the existing rotatory wing aircraft cannot navigate. 

What Makes C-295 the most versatile transport aircraft

India has unique and challenging boundaries to guard. Certain areas become inaccessible via any ground route and the height is such that long runways for bigger aircraft are impossible to make.

Advanced Landing Ground(ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh

The C-295 is a tactical lift aircraft that can be used for many roles. It can be operated from high-altitude areas where other heavy-lift aircraft can not land or take off. It can be used for air-dropping of special forces, paratroopers, and other logistic operations.

The C-295 comes with unique features which will boost the operational preparedness of armed forces guarding the borders. The C-295 is a new-generation tactical airlifter in the light and medium segment. It is robust and reliable but also highly versatile in terms of the number of different missions it can perform. It is fully certified and routinely operates day and night in combat missions in all weather extremes, from desert to maritime environments, from extremely hot to extremely cold temperatures.

Features of the Aircraft-

  • An Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance version with a multi-mission radar can also be weaponised to conduct effective close-air-support operations.
Armed/Ground ISR
  • A versatile roll-on/roll-off system converts the C-295 into an efficient water bomber to fight forest fires with up to 7,000 litres of water or retardant.
C-295 can be used as a Water Bomber
  • Its reliable long-time on station in combination with its Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) make the C-295 a perfect platform for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare missions.
  • Complete interception of electromagnetic (ELINT) and communication (COMINT) emissions to obtain a high level of situational awareness and to generate an intelligence advantage.
  • In its Airborne Early Warning version, the C-295 carries a state-of-the-art AESA radar for 360-degree coverage to provide a full airspace picture.
C-295’s Airborne Early Warning version
  • With a removable refuelling kit, the C-295 can be easily transformed into an air tanker that can provide up to 6,000 kg of fuel to fixed and rotary wing receivers.
can be used for air to air refueling
  • Medical evacuation- In its Medevac configuration, the C-295 can fit up to 24 stretchers plus seven medical attendants, and even intensive care configurations are possible.

With cabin dimensions of 12.7 m/41 ft 8 in (in length), the C-295 has the most extended unobstructed cabin in its class. It can accommodate up to 71 seats, offering a much higher personnel-carrying capability than its competitors in this segment. 

The C-295’s STOL (Short take-off and landing) capability combined with a vital landing gear enables it to operate in the most austere locations with the worst conditions for take-off and landings. The C-295 is also designed to provide outstanding low-level flight characteristics for tactical missions, flying at speeds down to 110 knots. This makes it suitable to operate in high-altitude regions of India.

The aircraft is suitable to be operated by the Indian Coast Guard as it has unique patrol and surveillance capabilities( FITS), which integrate, control and displays the mission sensors – enhancing mission awareness and facilitating informed decision-making. 

How Gujarat is becoming a Defence Manufacturing hub for India

Former Defence Minister, late Manohar Parrikar, earlier in 2017 said that Gujarat would likely become a major defence manufacturing hub as many private sector companies were planning to set up factories in the state.

His words are coming true today as Gujarat held India’s biggest defence exhibition, the Defence Expo 2022, earlier this month. More than 100 companies from the state took part in the event, which has been a big leap for MSMEs and corporate houses in the defence sector in the state.

Gujarat has been India’s leading state when it comes to acquiring defence projects and has steadily built its infrastructure to gain the attention of private defence manufacturing firms. In 2017 an investment agreement was signed between Airbus France and Dholera Industrial City Development Ltd (DICDL) of the Government of Gujarat for setting up an aerospace and defence cluster.

Further, an investment agreement between Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) ‘s Reliance Defence and Engineering and Gujarat government was signed in the year 2017 with a proposed investment of Rs2,500 crore in the defence sector in Gujarat.

Poll-bound Gujarat has bagged yet another multi-billion dollar defence project in the form of C-295 aircraft. As the state is heading towards the state assembly elections in the coming month, politics regarding the C-295 project has started.

The opposition parties in the state of Maharashtra are raising questions regarding the incumbent Government’s inefficacy in bagging the project for Maharashtra.

The MVA(Maha Vikas Agahdi) coalition, which was in power in Maharashtra from the year 2019 till June 2022 has alleged the current Government for failing to protect the state’s interest as the project was supposed to come up in Maharashtra has gone to Gujarat. However, the C-295 deal was signed in September 2021 when the MVA coalition ruled the state. 

Ease of doing business is the main factor in attracting investment in a state. Investors look for stability and Investment in Business needs security and law & order. Gujarat has attracted investments because of its higher ranking in EODB(Ease of Doing Business). 

Incidents like the Antilia bomb scare(which occurred on 25 February 2021), when a car containing explosives was found outside the residence of Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai have tarnished Mahrashtra’s reputation as a destination of investment.

The continuous hurdles in big projects in the state of Maharashtra, like the Bullet train delay, the Metro project, and many others, have scared away investors. The stalling of crucial metro shed for the Mumbai metro and stalling of the bullet train project by the slow rate of land acquisition supplemented by falling EODB ranking, and high corruption have forced investors to find a new destination away from Maharashtra for investments.

 Conclusion 

Self-sufficiency in the defence sector is an important step in the direction of the strategic autonomy of a nation. India has initially progressed slowly in this direction but is now speeding up.

PM Modi’s vision of making India a defence manufacturing hub has started to bear fruits. With the commissioning of INS Vikrant in September this year, India has moved into an elite group of countries that have the capability of developing an aircraft carrier.

India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers, something we cannot be proud of. With the C-295 project, India will surely transform from a net arms importer to an arms builder. It will further open job avenues as well as will increase domestic firms’ capabilities to build such endeavours in the future.

Shubham Joshi
Shubham Joshi
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