India is likely to sign a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for 56 C-295 military transports within six months, according to the country's retiring chief of the air staff, Arup Raha. Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of Defence has cleared the separate acquisition of six C-295s for an Indian Coast Guard requirement. Both orders will be delivered by the Tata-Airbus partnership that is India’s first-ever private sector aircraft development enterprise.

At his end-of-tenure press conference on December 23, Raha told AIN that the evaluation of the C-295 bid for the IAF is complete and contract negotiations would start soon. “Since benchmarking and other issues [of the aircraft] are known to us, the process will not take very long, especially with a proactive defense minister where things get sorted out faster than they did in the past,” he said. He added that, given the large number of aircraft to be ordered—18 to be delivered in flyaway condition and 40 to be manufactured in India—the Coast Guard contract would be “processed subsequently to completion of this series.” He continued, “The landmark decision for manufacture of this 8- to 10-ton-capacity aircraft will empower the private sector and help us with capabilities, with assistance from OEMs.”

The IAF need for a new medium airlifter has become urgent, as the service grapples with aging An-32s. In the past two decades 15 have crashed, the most recent one last year with 29 people on board. That aircraft has not yet been located, since Russian aircraft do not have underwater locator beacons. A contract will be signed within two months, Raha said, to equip helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft with emergency locator transmitters and underwater locator beacons linked to flight data recorders that are triggered by water immersion and indicate where wreckage is, in a large area of sea.

The Airus-Tata partnership will deliver the C-295s for the Coast Guard in “raw” condition to the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), which will integrate an indigenous mission system. “DRDO could likely use a surface-scanning radar that could be coupled with transponders on boats, an imperative for the Coast Guard,” said Bharat Malkani, managing director of Max Aerospace & Aviation Ltd. The mission system could be a derivative of the multisensor airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system developed by Center for Airborne System (CABS) with DRDO for the Embraer 145 platform, a defense official told AIN. “The C-295 is not a complicated aircraft. It is easy for DRDO to integrate the sensor in the nose with OEM input. It is not complicated structural work, and can be certified for airworthiness by the Indian body, CEMILAC,” said the official.

The Airbus Defence and Space C-295 maritime patrol aircraft comprises a range of sensors and components including search radar, electro-optic/infrared sensors, electronic support measures, an electronic intelligence system (ELINT), COMINT, a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), an IFF interrogator, a satcom, a datalink and a Link-11.