Will be sourced for IAF from global supplier

India is eyeing to get six mid-air refuelers for the Indian Air Force (IAF) from a global supplier. Details of Ministry of Defence’s requirements have been shared with the industry. Mid-air refuelers are specialised planes that can refuel fighter jets and helicopters while flying, saving the time they would otherwise take in landing, refuelling it and taking off again.

At present, the Indian Air Force uses the Soviet parentage IL-78 planes to refuel its fleet. These planes are more than 30 years old. The IAF is now looking at American and European options.

The details shared by the IAF with the industry include the vital fact that deal will be under ‘Buy Global’ category — meaning the refuellers will be sourced from global suppliers. Most of these mid-air refuelers are derivatives of commercial planes produced by Boeing and Airbus.

Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus mid-air refueler for military planes is modelled on its 767 commercial jet. The Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport is based on its commercial A 330 series plane.

In 2022, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited entered inked a memorandum of understanding with Israel Aerospace Industries to convert civil passenger aircraft into Multi-Mission Tanker Transport aircraft in India.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited planned to convert pre-owned civil aircraft into mid-air refuelling aircraft with cargo and transport capabilities. On February 16, the Defence Acquisition Council, the apex decision-making body of the Ministry of Defence, cleared the procurement of such planes.

(With Agency Inputs)