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NEW DELHI: India on Friday inked a nearly 20,000 crore contract with Airbus Defence and Space to procure 56 C-295 transport aircraft to replace the British built Avro-748 planes of the Indian Air Force.

The long-pending procurement was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security earlier this month.

As part of the pact, 16 aircraft will be delivered in a flyaway condition by Airbus from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain.

The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.

The C-295 MW is a medium-lift and medium-range transport plane of 5-10 tonne capacity with contemporary technology, including a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo, a defence ministry statement said.

India right now uses the Avro and the Soviet-built AN-32 in this role, of which the Avros are being phased out.

In the heavy-lift category, India has the C-17 Globemaster and the C130 Hercules, both from the US. It also has the Russian made IL-76.

“As the manufacturing capacities get set up in the country, the C-295 would be ideally placed to replace the AN-32, which would be getting phased out in the next 10 years or so," said Man Mohan Bahadur, a former additional director general of the Centre for Air Power Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank.

This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. It aims to give a boost to the Indian private sector in defence manufacturing.

“The clearance of the joint project between Airbus Defence and Tata Advanced Systems to build the C-295 is a great step forward in the opening up of the aviation and avionics projects in India," Ratan Tata said in a tweet.

“The C-295 is a multi-role aircraft with several configurations to meet mission requirements. It envisages total manufacturing of the aircraft in India," he said.

Tata said that the pact would “create a domestic supply chain capability to international standards, which has never been undertaken before."

“The Tata group congratulates Airbus and the Indian Defence Ministry for this bold step in fully building this state-of-the-art multi-role aircraft in India in support of the Make-in-India thrust to bolster the country’s equity framework," Tata said.

According to Airbus, the first 16 aircraft will be delivered over four years after the contract implementation, and all the planes will be equipped with an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite (EWS).

“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, chief executive officer of Airbus Defence and Space.

“The C-295 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 also on its own industrial and technological development," Schoellhorn said.

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