HAL's HS748 AVRO transport aircraft

The Avro story has got new wings. Indian Air Force wants to replace the ageing fleet of transport aircraft, and the C-295 transport aircraft, to be manufactured by a TATA-Airbus combine, is a top choice despite several issues on pricing terms.

But now, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is back in the game, proposing an improved Avro with fresh engines and avionics that could extend their service for almost two decades.

The proposal to replace the Avro Hawker Siddeley HS748 fleet — the planes have been made in India since 1960s — has been in the works for six years, and procurement of 56 replacement aircraft is in the final stages. HAL believes that the Avro fleet still has a lot of life left and can easily be upgraded to serve for longer.

The first Avro which flew in 1961 is set to be upgraded with new engines, modern sensors and safety features as a demonstration aircraft for the air force. Spare parts for the aircraft are no longer available, so the plan is to fit in a modern engine and new sensors that will give it extended life. To create a prototype, HAL is spending Rs 50 crore to upgrade the Avro aircraft, with new engines and a glass cockpit.

The plane is set to get a new ‘glass cockpit’ that will replace all analogue systems, and technical experts say similar upgrade is possible for the air force fleet of 56 aircraft that have had an exceptional safety record.

The purchase contract with TATA-Airbus was expanded from the original requirement of 56 aircraft to include a requirement of the coast guard for six a Multi Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMMA) and a final call on the deal will be taken by the defence minister led Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).

Six years after issuing a tender and five years since Airbus submitted a bid to build the C-295 in partnership with TATA A&D, the cost negotiation committee (CNC) is only now finalising its report. With the cabinet required to okay the approximately Rs 12,000 crore contract, the looming elections and a cash crunch stand in the way of an early clearance reports Business Standard.

TATA Aerospace & Defence (TATA A&D) is slated to build in India, as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) intention to develop a private sector rival to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). At the on-going Aero India 2019 show, both Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, singled out the C-295 for mention as one of the transformative projects in the pipeline, the report further adds.

While the IAF already operates a varied fleet of AN-32s, the IL-76 and C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster IIIs, there is a need for more utility and transport aircraft, not just for tactical use but also for disaster relief and emergencies.