Deal, expected to cost around ₹38,000 cr., could possibly be concluded at Aero India 2021 in Feb., says defence official

Major contracts for procuring 56 C-295 transport aircraft from Airbus to replace the Avro aircraft in service and 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-1A are likely to be concluded in the next few months, in addition to few other deals.

“Case for procurement of advanced 83 TEJAS MK-1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] is at final approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and contract is likely to be signed soon,” the Defence Ministry said.

The deal, expected to cost around ₹38,000 crore, could possibly be concluded at the Aero India 2021 in February, a defence official said.

On the C-295 deal, the Ministry said, “Case of procurement of 56 C-295 from Airbus with the participation of an Indian Production Agency for manufacture of 40 aircraft [out of total 56] in India is also at the Competent Financial Authority (CFA) approval stage and the contract is likely to be signed in the near future.”

Boost To Defence Industry

The case was first of its kind which envisaged the participation of private companies and would prove to be a boost to the defence industry, the Ministry said in its annual report.

In addition, contracts for procuring the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) from HAL, additional Harop (P-IV) loitering drones from Israel and upgrade of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) in service were also at an advance stage. “Contracts are likely to be signed in the first quarter of 2021,” the Ministry stated.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered 40 TEJAS in two batches of 20 each in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configurations and has raised two squadrons. Till date, 16 aircraft have been delivered to the IAF in IOC configuration. Delivery of the FOC aircraft has also commenced with improved weapons capability, enhanced fight envelope, inflight refuelling capability and advance features for low-speed handling. The 83 TEJAS MK-1A, which will have major capability enhancements, will take the total TEJAS order to 123. There is also a TEJAS MK-2 under development.

Need To Replace Avros

The IAF has 56 Avro transport aircraft procured in the 1960s and they are in urgent need of replacement. Under the present deal, 16 C-295s will be built by Airbus and imported and the remaining 40 built in the country by an Indian manufacturer under transfer of technology. The Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued to global firms in May 2013 and the sole bid by Airbus and Tata with the C-295 aircraft was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015. However, the final deal has been repeatedly delayed.

The number of C-295s has gone up from 56 to 62, combining the requirement from the Coast Guard. With the proposed joint development of a Medium Transport Aircraft with Russia meant to replace the AN-32 scrapped, there is discussion within the IAF on making the C-295 the replacement for the An-32 fleet in future.