The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated the process to find a replacement for the AN-32 transport aircraft in service. It has issued a Request For Information (RFI) for the procurement of a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) with a carrying capacity of 18 to 30 tons.

The RFI was issued on December 9, 2022, and the earlier bid submission date of February 3 has now been extended till March 31.

“The overall time frame of production, delivery with stage wise breakup of the entire project post conclusion of contract is required to be submitted. It is envisaged to commence deliveries of platform within 36 months of signing of Contract,” the RFI said. The vendors are to provide Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) cost of aircraft and associated equipment among others for a batch of 40 aircraft/60 aircraft/80 aircraft, respectively, it stated.

In the past, several IAF officials had stated that the just C-295MW, 56 of which have been just contracted, which falls in similar category as the AN-32 in terms of cargo carrying capacity would be considered as a potential replacement for the AN-32 given that a running assembly line would be available once the 56 aircraft are delivered. However, based on load carrying capacity specified in the RFI, 18 to 30 tonnes, the C-295 no longer fits the bracket as it is in the 5-10 tonnes category. Essentially, the IAF is looking to replace the AN-32s with an aircraft of higher carrying capacity, sources stated.

An earlier project to jointly co-develop and produce a MTA of 20 tons with Russia to replace the AN-32s was scrapped few years back after initial design discussions.

The IAF operates around 100 AN-32s which are the work horse of the force and they all been upgraded recently under a $400-million deal signed with Ukraine in 2009. Some of them were upgraded in Ukraine a decade ago to improve avionics and increase engine lifespan, while several others are being upgraded at an IAF repair facility in Kanpur.

In September last year, the Defence Ministry signed a 21.935 Crore contract with Airbus and Space S.A., Spain for procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft to replace the Avro aircraft in service with the IAF which it is executing in partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL). An Airbus-TASL joint venture will assemble the C-295s at a manufacturing facility being set up in Vadodara, Gujarat.

In addition to the AN-32s and AVROs, the transport fleet of the IAF consists of the IL-76 heavy transports and IL-78 mid-air refuelling tankers from Russia, 12 C-130J Super Hercules and 11 C-17 Globemaster strategic airlift aircraft from the U.S.

Under Make In India

The RFI has asked aircraft manufacturers to indicate the scope of work related to MTA, which would be undertaken under Make in India under appropriate category with estimate of indigenous content mandatorily.

Also state the capability to undertake indigenous manufacture of systems, subsystems, components, consumables, spares, ammunition and materials of the main equipment and platform in India, either through its own subsidiary or in a Joint Venture and the time period for developing infrastructure for manufacture.

“Methods to enhance indigenisation and to setup dedicated manufacturing line, including design, integration and manufacturing processes in India, either through its own subsidiary or in a joint venture,” the RFI said. Capability of Indian vendors to indigenously design and develop the required equipment along with level of indigenisation including use of indigenous military material, delivery capability, maintenance support and Life Cycle Support is also to be specified.

The vendors should also consider making India, a regional or global hub for manufacturing and Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) of the equipment. Among other details requires, the RFI added that vendors are also to specify capability to provide maintenance infrastructure, and to set up an ecosystem of indigenous vendors and manufacturers for sustenance of the platform and also indicate feasibility of using indigenous military materials and raw materials already being manufactured in the country.