India's Rafale fighter jets in Paris during the Bastille Day flypast on Friday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@EtatMajorFR)
As the Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) flew over Paris skies during the Bastille Day flypast on Friday, India’s first C-295 aircraft was also taking another step forward in neighbouring Spain to join one of the strongest and largest operational air force around the world before the end of 2023.
India acquired 56 C295 aircraft in September 2021 to replace the IAF’s ageing Avro fleet.
The plane currently undergoing test flights at Airbus’ San Pablo defence production facility in the city of Seville in southern Spain is the first of the 16 medium–lift tactical transport aircraft which will be delivered to the IAF in flyaway condition.
Giving a major boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative and domestic aviation manufacturing, the remaining 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) at the transport aircraft manufacturing project inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat’s Vadodara last year.
C-295, a transport aircraft of 5-10 tonne capacity with contemporary technology, is expected to strengthen the logistic capabilities of the IAF. It has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para-dropping of troops and cargo. Short take-off/land from semi-prepared surfaces is another of its features. The aircraft can be used for civilian purposes as well.
IndiaNarrative.com reported when the military aircraft first rolled out of the Airbus’ site in Spain this March, painted in IAF colours a month later and successfully completed its maiden flight in May, marking a significant milestone towards its delivery by the second half of 2023.
The Rs 21,935 crore programme, the first of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company, involves the full development of a complete industrial ecosystem – from the manufacture to assembly, test and qualification, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft.
The Indian Defence Ministry has stated that the project offers a unique opportunity for the Indian private sector to enter into the technology-intensive and highly competitive aviation industry. It will augment domestic aviation manufacturing resulting in reduced import dependence and an expected increase in exports.
Manufacturing of over 13,400 detail parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all the seven major component assemblies will be undertaken in India, along with tools, jigs and testers. Also, 96% of the total man-hour work per aircraft that Airbus employs at its manufacturing facility in Spain will be undertaken in India by the Tata Consortium.
“This first flight represents a significant accomplishment for the first Make in India aerospace programme. With the Indian Air Force set to become the largest operator of the C295 in the world, this programme exemplifies our commitment to improve the Indian Air Force operational capabilities,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.
✅ The first #C295 for India 🇮🇳 just rolled out of the paint shop 🎨
— Airbus Defence (@AirbusDefence) April 18, 2023
Various systems such as engines, landing gear, avionics, EW suite etc, will be provided by Airbus Defence and Space and integrated into the aircraft by the Tata Consortium.
All 56 aircraft will also be fitted with the indigenous electronic warfare suite of Indian DPSUs – Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited.
After the completion of the delivery of 56 aircraft to IAF, Airbus will be allowed to sell the aircraft manufactured in India to civil operators and export to countries which are cleared by the Indian government.
India and France are also stepping up the strategic partnership and deepening ties in the defence and security sector with New Delhi announcing on Thursday that it will be procuring 26 Rafale Marine aircraft and three more Scorpene submarines from France.
New Delhi’s announcement came just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Paris on a landmark two-day visit.
India has already acquired 36 top-of-the-line Rafale jets for its air force and the maritime Rafale fighters will be used for carrier operations on the country’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
As India creates a robust indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem at home, French global leaders in the defence industry like Dassault Aviation, Naval Group, Airbus, MBDA, Nexter, Safran and Thales have been working overtime to strengthen the long-term partnerships.
From the acquisition of Rafales to the partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Safran to develop helicopter engines, India and France have expanded the relationship to new areas of cooperation, as envisaged by PM Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.