IAF’s New Era: C-295MW Fleet to Replace the Vintage AVRO

Sub Title : A modern aircraft replaces a legend

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 5 Nov – Dec 2023

Author : Air Marshal, (Dr) Rajeev Sachdeva (Retd) AVSM, PhD

Page No. : 35

Category : Military Technology

: November 27, 2023

On September 25, 2023, the Indian Air Force inducted the Airbus C-295MW at Air Force Station Hindan, replacing the AVRO (HS-748) first flown in 1961. Raksha Mantri Shri Raj Nath Singh handed over the first C-295MW to Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary. The `21,935 crore Make in India project includes 56 aircraft, with 16 delivered from Seville and 40 to be co-produced by Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Limited, marking a first-of-its-kind joint venture. The new fleet will enhance IAF’s capabilities and join the historic 11 Squadron “Rhinos”.

On September 25, 2023, the Indian Air Force at Air Force Station Hindan, formally inducts the Airbus C-295MW to replace the Legendary AVRO (HS-748) aircraft, which first took to air on November 01, 1961.   Raksha Mantri, Mr Raj Nath Sigh officially hands over the first C-295MW, CA 7101, to the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary for the Rhinos, 11 Squadron.

The delivery of the first of 56 C-295MW, a Make in India project costing `21,935 crore, was made to the IAF chief at Airbus’ San Pablo site in Seville, Spain on September 13, 2023. The aircraft is in transport configuration, equipped with an Indian Electronic Warfare Suite and was jointly flown with the IAF-Airbus crew flew from Seville to Delhi.

16 aeroplanes will come in fly-away condition from the Airbus factory at Seville, while 40 will be manufactured by Airbus jointly with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) as a first ever JV of this kind.

“It’s a momentous day for us, the IAF in particular and the nation as a whole, to be receiving the first aircraft which marks the beginning of a new era… where we will be manufacturing a military aircraft in India,” ACM Chaudhari said speaking to media on the sidelines of the handover ceremony.

56 C-295MWs will boost the IAF’s capabilities by replacing its ageing fleet of 56 HAL assembled Avro, which took to air on November 01, 1961.  Indian HAL assembled a total of 89 aircraft for the Indian Air Force and Indian Airlines collectively.

The aircraft will join 11 Squadron, Rhinos, the first operational Avro Sqn of the IAF, the crew of the Sqn was also at the Airbus factory for the formal hand over.  Six pilots from 11 Sqn and 20 technicians have already undergone extensive training at the Seville facility.

Capability Boost by C-295MW

Airbus C-295MW has an extensive operational record with various Air Forces and operators aroundworld.  This record includes a wide range of missions and roles the aircraft has undertaken, showcasing its versatility and reliability.

Military Transport.  C-295MW has been primarily used as a military transport aircraft.  It has played a vital role in transporting troops, equipment, and supplies for various Air Forces.  Its versatility allows it to operate in both strategic and tactical transport roles.

Paratrooping Missions.  C-295MW is capable of carrying paratroopers, making it suitable for airborne assault and special forces operations.  It can accommodate a significant number of paratroopers and is equipped with the necessary provisions for safe parachute drops.

Air Logistics.  In addition to troops and personnel, the aircraft is widely employed for military cargo transport missions. It can carry a wide range of cargo, including vehicles, humanitarian aid and equipment, to remote or austere locations. Aircraft has been adapted for medical evacuation missions, equipped with medical facilities to transport injured personnel safely.  This capability is crucial during military conflicts and humanitarian operations.

Search and Rescue (SAR). Some versions of the C-295 have been configured for search and rescue missions, equipped with specialised equipment such as radar and sensors to locate and assist distressed aircraft or vessels.

Maritime Patrol.  C-295MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) variant is used by several countries for maritime patrol and surveillance missions.  It is equipped with radar, sensors and surveillance equipment to monitor maritime activities, combat piracy and conduct search and rescue over the sea.

Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). C-295MPA ASW variant is designed for anti-submarine warfare operations.  It is equipped with sonobuoys, torpedoes and other ASW equipment to detect and engage submarines. Long on-station duration, combined with Airbus’ Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS), make the C295 the perfect platform for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare missions.

Border Surveillance. The aircraft is employed in border surveillance missions, helping countries monitor their borders and respond to security threats effectively.  Complete interception of electromagnetic (ELINT) and communication (COMINT) emissions provide a high level of battlefield situational awareness and generate an intelligence advantage.

Airborne Early Warning. In its Airborne Early Warning version, the C295 carries the state-of-the-art AESA radar for 360-degree coverage to provide a full picture of the airspace.

Counter-Terrorism Operations. C-295 has been used in counter-terrorism and special operations, transporting special forces and providing tactical support.

Air-to-air Refueling. With a removable refuelling kit, the C295 can be easily transformed into an air tanker that is able to provide up to 6,000 kg. of fuel to fixed-wing and helicopter receivers.

Disaster Relief. During natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, the C-295 has been used for rapid response and humanitarian relief efforts, delivering aid, personnel, and equipment to affected areas.

Medical evacuation. In the MEDEVAC configuration, the C295 can be fitted with up to 24 stretchers plus seven medical attendants and can also host an Intensive care configuration.

Water Bomber. A versatile roll-on / roll-off system converts C295 into an efficient water bomber to fight forest fires with up to 7,000 litres of water or retardant.

Fully Integrated Tactical System.  FITS consists of an onboard suite of networked computers and displays that directly provide the crews with the required information in a processed manner, allowing them to perform missions much easier and more efficiently. In the complex arena of surveillance operations, the design challenge for FITS was not just to gather data from today’s sophisticated multiple sensors, but to process and present the information in an “intelligent” way to let the crew act on it.

Sensors currently integrated with FITS include radar, electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR), acoustics, magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), automatic identification system (AIS), identification friend or foe (IFF) interrogator, communications and electronic intelligence (COMINT/ELINT), and sea pollution detection systems. FITS also is integrated with the aircraft’s navigation and communications systems, including satellite communications (SATCOM), and high-frequency Link 11 and Link 16 datalinks. In the anti-submarine warfare role, it integrates sonobuoy and armament inventory management.

Training.  Some Air Forces use the C-295 as a training platform for pilots and crew members due to its relatively low operating costs and ease of maintenance.

The operational record of the Airbus C-295 highlights its adaptability to a wide range of missions, making it a versatile and reliable asset for military and humanitarian operations. Its continued production and global use underscore its importance in modern Air Forces and organisations dedicated to various missions.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Contract

56 aircraft contract worth `21,935 crores, comprises of a Make in India initiative at its best, wherein, only 16 C-295MW will come in fly-away condition from Seville, rest, Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) will jointly produce in India. The Final Assembly Line (FAL) is coming up at Vadodara in Gujarat, the foundation stone of the manufacturing facility was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2022. It will be the first military aircraft to be manufactured in India by a private consortium.

The first aircraft manufactured in India would be delivered as per schedule in September 2026 and the final, 56th aircraft by TASL is scheduled to be delivered to the IAF by August 2031.

Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus’ Head of Military Air Systems noted that within two years of signing the contract the delivery has commenced and he also said that this was the largest order in the history of the C295. Bharat is now got used to making history in aircraft orders, be it for civil aviation’s Airbus 320s, Boeing 737s or Military C-295MWs.

Atmanirbharta also comes with integration of an indigenous radar warning receiver and missile approach warning systems made by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and counter measure dispensing system made by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), which have been certified and installed on the first aircraft.

Production of components for the aircraft have also commenced at Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) facility in Hyderabad for the FAL at Vadodara. The project will give a boost to the aerospace ecosystem in India wherein several MSMEs spread over the country will be involved in the manufacturing of parts of the aircraft.

A large number of detail parts, sub-assemblies and major component assemblies of aero structure are scheduled to be manufactured in India.

“The programme will act as a catalyst in employment generation in the aerospace ecosystem of the country and is expected to generate 600 highly skilled jobs directly, over 3000 indirect jobs and an additional 3000 medium skill employment opportunities with more than 42.5 lakh man-hours of work within the aerospace and defence sector of India,” the ministry said.

A Tribute to Avro (HS-748)

Avro HS-748, also known as the Hawker Sidley HS-748, is a classic turboprop aircraft with a rich history of operations that spans over six decades.  This versatile aircraft has been used for various purposes, including passenger transportation, cargo transport, military missions and even humanitarian efforts.

The Hawker Sidley HS-748 is a medium-sized turboprop airliner originally designed and initially produced by the British aircraft manufacturer Avro. It was the last aircraft to be developed by Avro prior to its absorption into Hawker Sidley.

Design and Development.  Avro HS-748 was initially designed and developed by Avro in the United Kingdom during the late 1950s. The aircraft’s development was a response to the growing demand for a regional airliner with improved performance and capacity compared to its predecessors.  It made its first flight on June 24, 1960 and entered commercial service. The HS-748 is powered by Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop twin-engine, high-wing monoplane with a rugged and durable construction.  Its design features a T-tail configuration, which enhances its stability and reduces the risk of encountering the wake turbulence generated by larger commercial aircraft.

Passenger Transport. Avro HS-748 was primarily designed as a regional airliner, capable of carrying up to 58 passengers in a comfortable and spacious cabin.  Its short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities made it suitable for serving airports with shorter runways.

Cargo Transport. In addition to its passenger-carrying capabilities, the HS-748 has been adapted for cargo transport, often referred to as the “Freighter” variant.  Its large rear cargo door allows for the efficient loading and unloading of cargo pallets, making it a versatile choice for transporting goods and supplies to remote areas.

Military Applications. The versatility of the Avro HS-748 extended to military use. India employed this aircraft as a transport aircraft for troops, equipment and cargo, para trooping, para drop, SAR and for medical evacuation (medevac) missions and aerial also reconnaissance.

The Legend. Avro HS-748 has left an enduring legacy in the world of aviation by demonstrating its longevity and adaptability.  The HS-748’s contribution to regional air travel, cargo transport, military missions and humanitarian efforts cannot be overstated.  A remarkable history of operations across a wide range of roles. Its design, capabilities and versatility have allowed it to excel in diverse environments and serve various purposes.

Avro with the Indian Air Force (IAF): A Long-Standing Partnership

As the Dakota aircraft were in short supply, IAF took a decision in early 1960 to manufacture a transport aircraft in India itself and the Government of India and the IAF took a joint decision to manufacture the AVRO HS-748 aircraft.  Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh, AOC-in-C of the Maintenance Command, took on the responsibility to oversee the project and build the first aircraft at the newly set up manufacturing line at the Base Repair Depot at Kanpur, on January 23, 1960, the foundation stone for which was laid by Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, the then Chief of the Air Staff.

AVM Harjinder Singh trained a team of 440 IAF personnel under the supervision of a few specialists from England and converted these air warriors from their routine of repair and maintenance to manufactures of the most modern aircraft of those days.   By mostly using the local resources and with his team of newly trained aircraft builders, built the first production model of the AVRO-748 in the aircraft manufacturing depot at Kanpur in a record time of 17 months when the production model was still being manufactured in the U.K and gave a flying display on 26th November 1961 to the Nation.

November 1961 was a very important month in its history as on this day AVRO 748 Series 1 (BH 572) with Dart 6 engines took to the air for the first time with Chandu Gole and Ripu Daman Sahni (both test pilots and now retired Air Marshals) at the controls.  Defence Minister Mr VK Krishna Menon was present to see its first flight and was so overjoyed with the aircraft that it was named Subroto after the first Indian Chief of the Air Staff, however, later in 1964 the manufacturing of Avro was transferred to Transport Aircraft Division of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Transport and Cargo Missions. One of the primary roles of the Avro HS-748 in the IAF was troop and cargo transport. The aircraft’s ability to operate from short and unpaved airstrips made it an ideal choice for transporting troops, equipment and supplies to remote and forward areas, particularly in the challenging terrains of the Himalayan region and the Northeastern states of India

VIP Transport and Communication. Beyond its military transport role, the Avro HS-748 was also adapted for VIP transport and communication missions.  High-ranking officials, including government dignitaries, military leaders and foreign diplomats, frequently used the aircraft for travel within the country and abroad.  The Avro’s comfortable and well-appointed interior made it suitable for dignitary transport, while its reliability and range allowed for efficient long-distance communication missions.

Humanitarian and Relief Operations. Aircraft also played a vital role in humanitarian efforts and disaster relief operations.  Its ability to access remote airstrips and carry a significant payload made it an invaluable asset during natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones.

The partnership between Avro aircraft and the Indian Air Force has been a remarkable one, characterised by six decades of service in various roles.  In times of conflict, the Avro fleet served as a lifeline for the military, ensuring the swift and secure movement of forces to critical areas.  Its ability to access remote and austere airstrips proved crucial in maintaining supply lines and supporting forward operations.

Brief Comparison

The Avro and C295MW aircraft are both versatile transport aircraft, but they differ significantly in terms of their origins, capabilities, and operational characteristics.  A comparative statement between the Avro and C295MW aircraft to assess the Boost which has been given to the Military capability of the Indian Armed Forces.

Origin. The Avro aircraft, such as the Avro 748, is a British-built aircraft that originated in the mid-20th century.  C295MW is a product of Airbus Defence and Space, a European multinational aerospace corporation.

Development and Introduction.  Avro HS-748, first flew in 1960 and entered commercial service.  Airbus C-295MW, first flew in 1997 and was developed as a military transport and surveillance aircraft.

Purpose. Avro aircraft were primarily designed for civilian and military transport, as well as regional airliner roles.  The C295MW is a dedicated military transport aircraft designed for various missions, including troop transport, cargo airlift, medical evacuation and maritime patrol.

Capacity.  Depending on the configuration, Avro aircraft typically have a seating capacity of 50 to 70 passengers or can carry a payload of around 10 tons.  The C295MW can carry up to 71 troops or carry a payload of approximately 9.25 tons.

Range. Avro aircraft have a range of around 1,800 to 2,000 nautical miles, whereas, C295MW has a longer range, capable of covering distances of up to 2,000 to 2,500 nautical miles.

Performance. Avro HS-748 is known for its short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities, making it suitable for operations from shorter runways and unprepared airstrips.  Airbus C-295 also possesses impressive STOL capabilities, enabling it to operate from austere airstrips and semi-prepared runways.

Speed. Avro aircraft typically have a cruising speed of around 250 to 300 knots and C295MW has a similar cruising speed, ranging from 260 to 320 knots.

Military Applications. While some Avro aircraft were used for military transport, they are not purpose-built for military missions like the C295MW, which is equipped with military-specific features and can be configured for various roles, including electronic warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue.

In Conclusion

Avro HS-748 and Airbus C-295 are two distinct aircraft with different origins, purposes and capabilities.  While the Avro HS-748 served primarily as a regional airliner before being adapted for military and humanitarian roles, the Airbus C-295 was purpose-built as a military transport aircraft with a wider range of modern capabilities.  Avro has a longer history and has been used for a wider range of civilian and military purposes, though often with less advanced technology.