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Indian Air Force's quest for new Medium Transport Aircraft.

| 2023

On August 23, 2023, coinciding with the B20 Summit, Indian media reported that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is in the process of procuring new Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) to enhance its multi-mission capabilities. The race has been narrowed down to three leading aircraft manufacturers from the United States, South America, and Europe. This acquisition aligns with India's "Make in India" initiative, aimed at promoting local manufacturing and enabling technology transfer.

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Indian Air Forces quest for new Medium Transport Aircraft Lockheed Martin Embraer Airbus in the running under Make in India 925 001   Brazil's Embraer is offering its C-390 Millennium, a multi-mission tactical air transport aircraft. (Picture source: Embraer)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) currently operates 12 C-130J aircraft and is working jointly with Airbus and Tata Advanced Systems Limited on a program to equip the Air Force with 56 C-295 aircraft to modernize its transport fleet. The new Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) is intended to complement and potentially replace these existing aircraft, particularly in the cargo-carrying capacity range of 18 to 30 tonnes.

The key players in this competition include Lockheed Martin from the United States with its C-130J, Embraer Defense and Security from Brazil with its C-390 Millennium, and Airbus Defence and Space from Europe with its A-400M. Each of these manufacturers is vying for a contract that could range from 40 to 80 aircraft, depending on the IAF's needs.

The Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules is a multirole four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft with advanced avionics and a payload capacity of up to 20 tons. It excels in a range of missions, including troop transport, aerial refueling, and medical evacuation, and can operate from short and unprepared runways, making it ideal for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

Brazil's Embraer is offering its C-390 Millennium, a multi-mission tactical air transport aircraft. The C-390 has already entered service with the Brazilian Air Force and has proven its capabilities in various roles, including aerial refueling, cargo and troop transport, and medical evacuation. The aircraft has a payload capacity of 26 tonnes and can operate from temporary or unpaved runways.

Europe's Airbus is in the race with its A-400M, a versatile airlifter that has seen service with several NATO countries. The aircraft can perform a variety of roles, from strategic airlift to tactical missions.

One of the unique aspects of this competition is the "Make in India" initiative. The Indian government is keen on not just acquiring new aircraft but also on ensuring that the deal includes technology transfer and setting up a manufacturing line within the country. This is aimed at achieving a high level of indigenization, in line with India's broader defense and manufacturing goals.

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