NEW DELHI — A reassessment of Air Force priorities has jeopardized India's first effort to produce military aircraft in the domestic private sector.

The US $3.5 billion program would have replaced aging Avro transport aircraft, a tender for which was issued in 2013, but new Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar has urged that weapon purchases be prioritized because major hikes in defense spending hikes are not expected in the near future, said a Defence Ministry source.

India's first ever effort to produce military aircraft in the domestic private sector faces failure because the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to reassess its need to buy from the market transport aircraft worth US $3.5 billion to replace its aging Avro transport aircraft, a tender for which was issued in 2013.

The government decided in July 2014 that the tender should be reserved for domestic private sector companies as production partners and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.imited (HAL) (cq) was excluded from the program. Only Airbus Defence and Space, proposing the (ADS) of Spain with its offer of C-295 in a tie up with domestic private sector defense major Tata Advanced Systems, (TASL), a Tata Group company has filed aits bid for the program.

The Avro replacement tender invites foreign vendors to identify an Indian private sector partner, supply 16 aircraft made abroad and manufacture 40 at a facility set up in India with the local partner.

Ukraine's Antonov (cq) Design Bureau, which had earlier evinced interest in the program, did not file aits bid because the company cannot commit transfer of technology as the majority of the systems are sourced from Russia's Voronezh Aircraft Production Association. (cq) and Moscow has now stopped export of these technologies to the Ukrainian company in the wake of political developments there, according to a Defence Ministry source.

"Airbus had tied up with [Tata]TASL for the Avro tender with the hope that they would (Airbus and TASL) will together draw major plans to join hands in the aero market, including joint production of a variety of helicopters" said an executive of the Tata group. "All future plans in the aerospace sector are now put on the shelf again," the executive added.

As the Air Force reassesses its part of the fresh exercise to reassess the Air Force'spriority needs, the of the IAF, Avro replacement is likely to be given a low priority figure low in the wish list and the project Avro fleet replacement may put be put on hold, the MoD source added.

No Air Force official of IAF would publicly comment on the priority list under preparation, but an Air Force source said one reason in IAF said that buying new aircraft to replace the for Avros replacement could be viewed as a low priority is figure lower in the priority list because India is and Russia are negotiating joint production and development of has a proposal to jointly produce and develop medium transport aircraft with Russia's United Aircraft Corp. (UAC). It has also purchased US transports.oration.(MTA) with Russia, which is in the final stages of negotiation.

"India has procured the US-made C-17s and C-130Js to satisfy its transport requirements. Although these aircraft come under the heavy-lift category, but for now they have reduced the operational exigency of procuring new transport aircraft, which may also be why India has been dragging its feet on the Airbus C-295 and transport aircraft program," said another Air Force IAF officer.(other than the source)

In addition to the US transport planes, Currently, the Indian Air Force IAF uses Russian-made AN-32s and IL-76s. , U.S. made C-130J and the C-17 transport aircraft and has a proposal to jointly develop and produce the Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) with Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).Russia's UAC and India's HAL have established a new company, the Multirole Transport Aircraft Ltd. imited,(MTAL), as a Indo-Russian joint venture for the proposed medium transport aircraft, MTA but a final production agreement has not been signed. between the two countries.

The program MTA envisages production of a 20-tone cargo plane capable of ferrying 80 troops together with infantry fighting vehicles or light tanks, artillery guns and ammunition, and replace the AN-32 transports. aircraft with the IAF.Ends


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

More In Training & Sim