India’s growth momentum has been maintained despite the COVID-19 pandemic, war, and supply-chain disruptions, and India is presenting opportunities for low cost manufacturing and high output, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday after laying the foundation stone for the C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing facility to be set up by a consortium of Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Airbus Defence and Space in Vadodara.

The event comes just before the announcement of the schedule for Assembly elections in Gujarat.

“In the coming years, the defence and aerospace sectors will be two important pillars for making India aatmanirbhar (self-reliant). We have a goal of exceeding $25 billion in defence manufacturing by 2025. Besides, our defence exports would be more than $5 billion,” Mr. Modi said at the event which saw a huge turnout.

In September 2021, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a ₹21,935 crore deal with Airbus Defence and Space, Spain for the procurement of 56 C-295MW aircraft. This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India under technology transfer by the private sector.

The Prime Minister termed the C-295 project a big step in the direction of making India the manufacturing hub of the world. Observing that India is making fighter jets, tanks, submarines, medicines, vaccines, electronic gadgets, mobile phones and cars that are popular in many countries, Mr. Modi said the country is now becoming a huge manufacturer of transport aircraft. “India is moving forward with the mantra of ‘Make in India, Make for the Globe’. Today our policies are stable, predictable and futuristic,” Mr. Modi said.

In this regard, he highlighted the increased demand for passenger and cargo aircraft. The PM stated that India will need more than 2,000 aircraft in the next 15 years. “We are about to enter among the top three countries in the world with regard to air traffic,” he added.

Speaking at the event, N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, said, “With the set-up of the final assembly line (FAL) in Vadodara, the Tata Group will now be able to take aluminium ingots at one end of the value stream and turn it into a Airbus C295 aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).”

Of the 56 aircraft, 16 will come in fly-away condition between September 2023 and August 2025. The first of 40 ‘Made in India’ aircraft are expected from September 2026 and will be completed by 2031 at the rate of eight aircraft per year.

Chief Executive Officer of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, said their teams are committed to supporting the modernisation of the IAF with the C295 programme, which he said will also contribute to the development of the private defence manufacturing sector in the country.

The C-295 will replace the Avro transport aircraft in the IAF, procured in the 1960s and in urgent need of replacement. The Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued to global firms in May 2013 and the sole bid by Airbus and TASL with the C-295 aircraft was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015.

The C295 is an aircraft of five-10 tonne capacity used for tactical transport of up to 71 passengers or 50 paratroopers, and for logistic operations to locations that are not accessible to current heavier aircraft and has a proven capability of operating from short or unprepared airstrips.

With 285 aircraft ordered and 38 operators in 34 different countries, the C295 has achieved more than 500,000 flight hours. India will become the 35th C295 operator worldwide.

At the DefExpo in Gandhinagar last week, Airbus became first foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to receive Quality Management System approval from Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA), the Indian regulator aeronautical quality assurance, for the C-295 India aircraft program.

The certificate of approval was handed over by Director General of DGAQA, Sanjay Chawla to Kajetan von Mentzingen, Head of Quality, Airbus Defence and Space at a ceremony held on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022, in Gandhinagar. This is a significant first step of a comprehensive quality assurance roadmap agreed between Airbus and DGAQA for the C295 ‘Make in India’ program.

This certification is part of the industrial development programme, which involves the full development of a complete industrial ecosystem: from the production of detailed parts to assembly, test and qualification, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft, TASL officials said.

Defence public sector units such as Bharat Electronics Limited and Bharat Dynamics Limited will supply Electronic Warfare suites for the 56 aircraft.

With a proven capability of operating from short or unprepared airstrips, the C295 is used for tactical transport of up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, and for logistic operations to locations that are not accessible to current heavier aircraft.

This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years, Airbus officials had stated earlier.

The IAF becomes the 35th C295 operator worldwide, with the programme reaching 278 aircraft, 200 of which are already in operation and have booked more than half a million flight-hours.