Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the potential customers of the Airbus C295, now only including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Airbus is selling its C295 tactical airlifter to a mystery Southeast Asian customer and is fulfilling a follow-on order for Thailand, the company announced Monday.
The European aircraft manufacturer announced the sale of an additional C295 to Thailand for its Army. The aircraft will be delivered in 2023, outfitted in a utility transport configuration, although no contract values were disclosed in the announcement for either buy. The announcement also mentioned a recent sale of three aircraft to an “undisclosed military customer in the region.”
Johan Pelissier, the head of Airbus Defence and Space’s Asia-Pacific business activity, said that “the C295 is gaining popularity in Asia-Pacific due to its modularity, maneuverability and endurance capability,” adding that “the low cost of operation compared to any other platform of its class makes it a good prospect for the militaries.”
Industry sources tell Defense News that in this case, the “Asia-Pacific” region refers specifically to Southeast Asia instead of the wider geographic region. The sources added the customer was already existing customer of the C295, narrowing the mystery buyer down to Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The secrecy suggests that the customer is likely to be Vietnam, which already operates three C295s ordered in 2014, having retired its Russian-built Antonov An-26 transports.
Vietnam’s existing C295s serve alongside a similar number of CASA/IPTN NC-212 light transport aircraft, and the addition of three more aircraft would represent a significant improvement to its airlift capability.
The country is a claimant to the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, and the C295 would come in use in resupplying several outposts Vietnam maintains on the islands, as well as in other roles such as humanitarian disaster relief.
In addition to the aforementioned Southeast Asian air forces, another 28 air forces operate the type or have it on order, including Canada, Egypt and Spain. The type is available as the C295M or improved C295W transport, as well as the C295 Persuader maritime patrol aircraft.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.