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Production of C-295 aircraft to begin in India next week while the first aircraft from Spain will arrive in September, 1st batch of IAF crew completes training

The Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) in Hyderabad will start production of components of C-295 aircraft by next week, while final assembly at Vadodara's Final Assembly Line (FAL) will start in November 2024

In a major milestone in the indigenisation of defence manufacturing, the production of the C-295 military transport aircraft is all set to start in India. India has ordered 56 C-295MW military transport aircraft from Airbus for the Indian Air Force, with the condition that 40 of them will be made in India, while the first batch of 16 aircraft is being purchased in flyway condition from Spain.

A consortium led by Tata Advanced Systems Limited in collaboration with Airbus is manufacturing the rest of 40 planes in India. The Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) in Hyderabad will produce several major sub-assemblies for the aircraft, and the production in this plant will start in the next week.

The sub-assemblies made at MCA will be shipped to the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Vadodara, where the aircraft will take its final shape. Work on the FAL is going on at present and is estimated to be completed by mid-2024 and start production by November 2024.

Jorge Tamarit, head of the C-295 India programme of Airbus, said to a small group of visiting journalists from India, “The FAL in Vadodara will be ready by mid-2024 and start production by November 2024. Next week the Main Constituent Assembly [MCA] in Hyderabad is set to start production where several major sub-assemblies for the 40 aircraft to be assembled in India would be made, beginning with the rear-end fuselage.”

Tamarit added that work on domestic production is in full swing. He further added that the indigenous content in the planes is set to gradually increase, peaking with the 32nd aircraft onwards. Speaking on the timeline, the senior Airbus official said, “The 16 aircraft in flyaway condition will be delivered between September 2023 and August 2025, while the first Made in India C295 will roll out of the Vadodara facility in September 2026 and the remaining 39 by August 2031.”

Tamarit said the contract for the aircraft involving ‘Make-in-India’ and offset obligations is unprecedented. He said stating the ‘Make-in-India’ obligations incorporated in the deal is over and above the 30% offset obligations. Apart from the supply of the aircraft, the contract also includes a service support programme, spares, ground support and test equipment, tech publications, training, training devices, and a performance-based logistics contract.

The govt of India also signed a Performance Based Logistics (PBL) contract in March this year, as per which the company will ensure a fleet availability rate of 85%. The company is also contracted to supply spare for 10 years at 10 operating bases.

Indigenous radar warning receiver and missile approach warning systems made by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and counter-measure dispensing system made by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) have been certified and installed on the first aircraft.

Tamarit further added that 14,000 detailed parts would be made in India and roughly around 3,500 parts will be industrialised every year. Some technologies like Chemical Milling will be transferred by Airbus to Tata under an Intellectual Property licence agreement.

While the first made-in-India C-295MW will roll out of the Final Assembly Line at Vadodara in September 2026, the first plane directly purchased from Spain will arrive in India in September this year. And the the  Indian Air Force (IAF) has completed the process of training its personnel to operate the aircraft.

On the 18th of July, the first batch of Indian C295 pilots completed their training at Airbus’ Seville facility. Head of the C295 India programme, Jorge Tamarit said that six IAF pilots and 20 technicians have been trained at the Seville facility in Southern Spain. He added that another 18 pilots and 60 technicians will be trained at the Seville facility, next year.

It is important to note that Airbus Defence and Space’s facility in Seville is the final assembly line (FAL) for the C295 medium transport aircraft. 

As per Senior Airbus officials, Indian Air Force (IAF) crews will carry out acceptance trials of India’s first C295 medium transport aircraft in early September at the Seville facility. Once accepted, the IAF will take delivery of the aircraft and fly it back to India.

With this, the IAF will receive India’s first C-295 transport aircraft around 45 days from now. As planned, a four-member crew will fly the first aircraft to India. It will include two IAF pilots who will be assisted by an Airbus pilot and a flight engineer.

Earlier, in May 2023, the first C295 aircraft made for India completed its maiden flight. The second aircraft is currently in the final assembly line at Airbus’s Seville facility. It is expected that it will be delivered to IAF in May 2024. 

It is notable that in September 2021, the defence ministry approved a Rs 21,935-crore contract with Airbus to acquire 56 C295MW aircraft. After the completion of the deal, IAF will become the world’s largest operator of the C295 aircraft. The aircraft acquisition was done so that C295s can replace the ageing fleet of IAF’s Avro-748 planes which began their services in the early 1960s.

As part of the contract, the first 16 C295s will be built in the Seville facility. They will be delivered to the IAF in the flyaway condition from Spain. 

The officials highlighted that all 56 aircraft will be equipped with an indigenous electronic warfare suite, developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited. BEL has supplied the radar warning receiver and the missile approach warning system, while BDL has provided the countermeasure dispensing system.

As per the contract, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Airbus are jointly executing the programme. This will mark a significant shift for the Make in India programme as it will be the first time that the private consortium will lead an aircraft manufacturing enterprise in the country. Till now, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had a total monopoly on the manufacturing of military aircraft. 

According to another senior Airbus official, Jorge Madrid, the main constituent assembly for the C295 in Hyderabad, established by Tata Advanced Systems, will manufacture and assemble the parts of the C-295 aircraft. These parts will then be sent to the Vadodara plant. And this final assembly line in Vadodara will be operational in November 2024. Its foundation stone was laid by PM Modi in October 2022 and it was set up by the consortium of Tata and Airbus. Similarly, a training centre for C295 crews will be ready in Agra next year.

The final assembly line in Vadodara, India will be the first one outside Spain. It will have a capacity of manufacturing 12 aircraft per year. As per Airbus officials, it will be operated by Tata with the same standards as the C295 final assembly line in its Seville facility. 

As per specifications, the C295 aircraft can carry up to nine tonnes of payload or 71 personnel or 45 paratroopers. It has a maximum speed of 480 kmph. It can also operate from short or unprepared airstrips. It also has a rear ramp to para-drop troops and cargo. 

Apart from the 56 planes already ordered, the C295 facility in Vadodara will have the capacity to fulfill the Indian military’s additional needs and handle export orders. 

According to officials, the Airbus-Tata consortium is in talks with the defence ministry to meet the requirements of nine aircraft for the Navy and six aircraft for the coast guard. 

The project will significantly enhance India’s aerospace ecosystem and create 15,000 highly skilled and 10,000 direct jobs. The Airbus-Tata partnership has already identified over 125 domestic MSME suppliers located in seven states.

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