The first C295 for India has successfully completed its maiden flight, marking a significant milestone towards its delivery by the second half of 2023. The tactical aircraft took off from Seville, Spain, on the 5 May at 11.45 local time (GMT+1) and landed at 14.45 after 3 hours of flight.
«This first flight represents a significant accomplishment for the first Make in India aerospace programme. With the Indian Air Force (IAF) set to become the largest operator of the C295 in the world, this programme exemplifies our commitment to improve the Indian Air Force operational capabilities», said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.
India acquired 56 C295 aircraft in September 2021 to replace the (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet. The first 16 aircraft will be assembled in Seville, Spain, and delivered to the customer in ‘fly-away’ condition. The following 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
This programme will significantly contribute to developing the country’s military industrial ecosystem from the manufacturing to assembly, testing, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft.
The C295 programme comprises a total of 281 orders from 39 operators, making it an unmatched aircraft in its weight and mission class.
India has formalised the acquisition of 56 Airbus C295 aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet. It is the first ‘Make in India’ aerospace programme in the private sector, involving the full development of a complete industrial ecosystem: from the manufacture to assembly, test and qualification, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft.
Under the contractual agreement, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain. The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
The first 16 aircraft will be delivered over four years after the contract implementation. All the IAF C295s will be handed over in transport configuration and equipped with an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite.
«This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years», said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. «The C295 has proven again as the segment leader, and with the addition of India as a new operator, the type will enlarge its footprint even more, not only on the operational aspects but on its own industrial and technological development».
Sukaran Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tata Advanced Systems Limited, said, «This is a moment of pride for Tatas and a milestone for the Indian military manufacturing ecosystem. For the first time, an Indian private company will be wholly manufacturing an aircraft in India. This endeavour demonstrates Tata Advanced Systems’ capabilities as a defence manufacturer to build globally competitive complex platforms in India».
‘Make in India’ is at the heart of Airbus strategy in India, with the company constantly increasing the country’s contribution to its global product portfolio. The C295 programme will see Airbus bring its complete bouquet of world-class aircraft manufacturing and servicing to India in collaboration with our industrial partners, including the Tatas and leading defence public sector units such as Bharat Electronics Ltd. and Bharat Dynamics Ltd, as well as private Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
With a proven capability of operating from short or unprepared airstrips, the C295 is used for tactical transport of up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, and for logistic operations to locations that are not accessible to current heavier aircraft. It can airdrop paratroops and loads, and also be used for casualty or medical evacuation (medevac), as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, using either basic litters or mobile Intensive Care Units (ICU) with life support equipment. The aircraft can perform special missions as well as disaster response and maritime patrol duties.
The IAF becomes the 35th C295 operator worldwide, with the programme reaching 278 aircraft, 200 of which are already in operation and have booked more than half a million flight-hours.
The new capability for Airbus’ C295 to serve as an aerial tanker brings additional flexibility for this tactical airlifter, further increasing its already-proven versatility and opening additional mission opportunities.
Airbus Defence and Space developed a removable Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) kit for the twin-engine aircraft that utilises a 100-foot-long/30.5-meter-long deployable hose with a «basket» at the end – enabling the transfer of fuel to receiver aircraft equipped with a probe. A remote vision system allows crewmembers aboard the Airbus C295 tanker to monitor refuelling operations from the cargo cabin.
Recent flights to test the kit involved an Airbus-owned C295 that refuelled a C295 from the Spanish Air Force, as well as proximity tests with the Airbus C295 and a fast fighter aircraft – a Spanish Air Force F-18 Hornet.
The Airbus C295’s removable refuelling system – which weighs 1,500 kg/3,307 lbs. – consists of up to three additional fuel tanks, an operator’s console, and the hose drum unit.
Making the Airbus C295 an even more valuable platform
«Customers are increasingly interested in purchasing not just an aircraft, but a versatile platform that can be used for different missions», explained Martín Espinosa, the Airbus Defence and Space engineering technical manager responsible for the Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling test campaign. «The development of the air-to-air refuelling capabilities of the Airbus C295 forms part of this strategic vision».
The Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling capability would be a highly valuable mission-extender for customers using Airbus C295s. These customers include the armed forces of current and future Airbus C295 operators responsible for civil and military Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.
Additionally, it could serve as a cost-effective platform to train fighter pilots in the skills needed for air-to-air refuelling. «The Airbus C295 tanker kit could facilitate training of fighter pilots for missions involving refuelling, or even for AAR services on a lease-by-the-hour basis at a fraction of the cost of heavier aircraft», explained Luis Díaz-Miguel, the Tactical Airlifters Marketing Manager.
Captain Gabiña, a Spanish Air Force pilot involved in the aerial refuelling tests, gave high marks to the Airbus C295 in its new role as tanker. «The degree of difficulty in flight test is always high since it involves performing manoeuvers that no one has done before. It should be noted that due to the positive behaviour of the aircraft, the operation has been good and straightforward», he said.