NEW DELHI — India will need to explore fresh options, including direct purchase, to shore up its air transport fleet as the Ukraine conflict has stymied the upgrade of its AN-32 aircraft, an Indian Air Force official said.

The last batch of five of the 40 fortynumbers of AN-32 aircraft being undergoing upgraded in Ukraine have become "untraceable," the official said, and the local upgrade of the remaining 64 AN-32s has aircraft halted as Ukraine engineers departed have left and supplies of spares stopped. , added the official.

"As AN-32 formed the bulk of the medium-lift segment of the transport fleet, urgent replacement of the Avro fleet, finalization of the joint development of medium transport aircraft (MTA) and possible fresh purchases are some of the options which IAF will need to work on an urgent basis," retired Air Force IAF wing commander Bhim Singh said. (cq).

In addition to the AN-32, the Air Force IAF uses the Russian-made IL-76, AN-32; British-made Avro, which is aircraft, license-produced by Hindustan Aeronautics, Limited; and the US-made C-17 and C-130J Super Hercules. aircraft.

In 2009, India contracted with Ukraine's state-owned arms trading agency, Ukrspetsexport Corp., (cq) to upgrade its 104 AN-32 transport aircraft at a cost of US $400 million as the fleet had reached its life expectancy. finished its technical life that year. The program, which was to run through 2017, involved the upgrade of 40 aircraft in Ukraine and the remaining 64 to be upgraded under technology transfer from Ukraine at the Air Force's Kanpur-based base repair depot. of IAF.

However, only 35 aircraft, upgraded at Kiev-based Antonov State Co. mpany (cq) facilities in Ukraine, have returned, while the last five remain stranded are still stuck back due to the conflict.

"These five aircraft are as almost lost as it is difficult to trace them and diplomatic efforts to find their whereabouts have failed," the Air Force IAF official said.

A diplomat from the Ukraine Embassy said Antonov must resolve this issue with the Indian Air Force, and that the government cannot help. Antonov officials were unavailable for comment.

The local upgrade at the Kanpur depot, based Base Repair Depot of IAF which began three years ago, last halted last year. Six aircraft were put for upgrade but work had to be discontinued as the Ukraine engineers left and only one container of spares from Ukraine had arrived, so far, the Air Force IAF official said.

The upgrade of the ANn-32 would have extended lasted the aircraft's life by another 40 years with improved avionics, modernization of the cockpit and payload capacity is also being increased from 6.7 to 7.5 tons.

The AN-32 upgrade also includes spares from Honeywell of U.S. and some Russian supplies.

"IAF had all along been maintaining that the local upgrade includes indigenization of spares and parts, and that most of them have been executed. With the local upgrade halted, these claims has been proven false," Singh said.[ He means to say there has been very little indigenization of spares]

With the Indian government wanting to emphasizing put emphasis on strategic lift in the years ahead for internal deployment and the rushing of troops to along the Chinese and Pakistani borders, there is need to procure additional transport aircraft are needed, Singh said.

AVRO Replacement

The status of replacing the Air Force's fate of the replacement of 56 Avro transports is unclear with IAF is also in the doldrums as only Airbus Defense and Space of Spain, which proposed the with its offer of C-295 in a tie up with India's domestic Tata Advanced Systems, (TASL) has bid for the $3.5 billion tender, which closed late last year.

Ukraine's Antonov of Ukraine did not file a its bid because the Indian Ministry of Defence Ministry (MoD) refused to give it an extension. to file its bid.

With only one bidder, the tender faces cancellation. as Indian Ministry of Defence does not favor giving contracts on single vendor basis.

Meanwhile, India and Russia propose to develop jointly develop a medium-lift transport plane capable of ferrying 80 troops together with infantry fighting vehicles or light tanks, artillery guns and ammunition, aimed at replacing the AN-32 transport fleet.

Russia's UAC and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have established a new company, the Multi Role Transport Aircraft Ltd., imited (MTAL), as an Indo-Russian joint venture for the Medium Transport Aircraft program. MTA But a final production agreement is not emerging coming through because of unresolved issues relating to production work share. the quantum of work share each side will have in the production of the MTA. Ends