Airbus Industries delivered the first of 56 C295 military aircraft to India this week as part of a landmark deal that will allow the South Asian nation to build the tactical cargo plane on its soil.
Indian officials at the Airbus Defence & Space facility in Spain received the first of the planes, which can transport up to 71 combat troops and take off and land on short and unpaved runways fully loaded.
“It is a momentous day for the Indian Air Force, and the nation as a whole to receive the first aircraft which marks the beginning of a new era, wherein we will be manufacturing 40 of these aircraft in India,” Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari said.
India has been upgrading its infrastructure including roads and airfields amid tensions with China that reignited following a clash among border soldiers in 2020 left dozens killed and maimed.
Airbus said the contract for the C295 was signed swiftly and in line with Delhi’s Make-in-India policy which aims to cut down on costly imports.
“It was only two years ago that we signed this contract with India, the largest order in the history of the C295,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus’ military head. The deal is worth €2.46 billion.
“This is the beginning of an exciting and long-term journey with the Indian Air Force,” he said.
Officials in Delhi added that India held the option of ordering more aircraft.
The C295s will replace India’s British-built Avro HS748 freighters in yet another step in the evolving military landscape where France, the US and Israel have started nibbling away Russia’s share of arms trade with India, the world’s second largest arms importer.
They said the C295 aircraft may also replace India’s vintage fleet of 100 Ukrainian origin AN-32 military transport planes in the future.
India’s coast guard, navy and paramilitary forces are also scouting for tactical cargo aircraft.
Officials said 16 C295 aircraft will arrive in fly-away condition from Spain up until August 2025 and the remaining 40 planes would be manufactured by a Tata-Airbus consortium in Gujarat state.
The contract between Airbus and Tata will mark the private sector’s first-ever foray into India’s tightly-controlled military aeronautical sector.
“By any definition this is a landmark project because we started making a fighter jet of our own in 1983 but we could only commission it into the air force in 2021,” an aviation analyst said.
The first ‘Made in India’ C295 will roll out in September 2026 in what will be a milestone for the Indian aerospace industry. The final aircraft is expected to be delivered to the Indian Air Force by August 2031, according to Airbus.
Airbus also said the production of spare parts have already started and that they will be shipped to the Vadodara facility which is expected to be up and running by November 2024.