This was in the works for a while, and it's now the first horse in what's going to be a big and unprecedented race. Full of implications for the future of airframing on Indian soil, Airbus today announced that it has teamed up with Indian private firm Tata Advanced Systems to bid for the ~$2 billion deal to replace 56 doddering Hawker Siddley HS748 Avro transports. As expected, the horse they'll be betting is the C295.
"The teaming follows a detailed industrial assessment and stringent evaluation of the Indian private aerospace sector by Airbus Defence and Space, which concluded with the selection of Tata Advanced Systems as the Indian Production Agency (IPA) exclusive partner for this prestigious programme," a statement from Airbus said today.
And they're not kidding. It's an industrial assessment unprecedented in many ways, given that the Avro replacement programme is the first serious effort to hedge risk and whittle down HAL's absolute military airframing monopoly in the country by finally giving private sector firms the chance to show that they can compete if only they have a level playing field bereft of stupefying and institutionalised advantages that HAL has enjoyed for decades.
Tata Advanced Systems chairman S. Ramadorai, said, “It is a landmark for the development of aircraft manufacturing capability in India, now that Tata Advanced Systems is poised to take this step toward building entire aircraft in India. The selection of Tata Advanced Systems by Airbus demonstrates the confidence that has been built in our ability to undertake this complex programme.”
Responding to the programme requirements, Airbus said today, "A total of 56 Avro aircraft are to be replaced. In the event of contract award, Airbus Defence and Space will supply the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its own final assembly line. The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems in India. This will include undertaking structural assembly, final aircraft assembly, systems integration and testing, and management of the indigenous supply chain."
Airbus D&S executive veep for military aircraft Domingo Ureña Raso said, “We firmly believe that, in the C295, we have clearly the best aircraft to replace the IAF Avro fleet and, in Tata Advanced Systems, we have secured the cream of the Indian private aerospace sector as our partner for this project."
This will hopefully be a good fight. Other airframers expected to announce their 'teamings' with Indian firms for the contest include Alenia Aermachhi with the C-27J Spartan, and Antonov with the An-148. HAL hates the idea of this fight, given that the process itself requires an industrial stamp of approval for competing facilities in the country -- factories that hopefully directly compete in the future with HAL. Apart from Tata, companies like Reliance, Larsen & Toubro and Mahindra could compete. Then again, these are early days yet.