/Battle for IAF’s transport aircraft contract : HAL hops on Avro replacement flight

Battle for IAF’s transport aircraft contract : HAL hops on Avro replacement flight

The Avro story has got new wings. Indian Air Force wants to replace the ageing fleet of transport aircraft, and the C 295 transport aircraft, to be manufactured by a Tata-Airbus combine, is a top choice despite several issues on pricing terms.

But now, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is back in the game, proposing an improved Avro with fresh engines and avionics that could extend their service for almost two decades.

The proposal to replace the Avro Hawker Siddeley HS748 fleet — the planes have been made in India since 1960s — has been in the works for six years, and procurement of 56 replacement aircraft is in the final stages. However, HAL believes that the Avro fleet still has a lot of life left and can easily be upgraded to serve for longer.

Sources told ET that the first Avro which flew in 1961 is set to be upgraded with new engines, modern sensors and safety features as a demonstration aircraft for the air force.

The plane, nicknamed ‘Subroto’ after the first IAF chief, is officially designated as HAL’s corporate carrier and will be upgraded by the company at its own costs. “The aircraft is old but has flown only 30,000 of its total airframe life of a lakh kilometers.

Spare parts for the aircraft are no longer available, so the plan is to fit in a modern engine and new sensors that will give it extended life,” an official aware of the program told ET.

The plane is set to get a new ‘glass cockpit’ that will replace all analogue systems, and technical experts say similar upgrade is possible for the air force fleet of 56 aircraft that have had an exceptional safety record.

As reported by ET, the purchase contract with Tata-Airbus was expanded from the original requirement of 56 aircraft to include a requirement of the coast guard for six a Multi Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMMA) and a final call on the deal will be taken by the defence minister led Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).