Oct 16, 2012
India has delayed its Request for Proposal for replacement of 56 Avro transport aircraft, a pilot project, that for the first time ever, was set aside for an OEM with an Indian private partner without participation of government-owned HAL.
With Russia and India signing the initial design phase contract for the $600-million 18 to 20 ton (payload) Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA), the duplication of effort by the government is becoming increasingly clear with the visiting deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin to India stressing Russia was ready to cooperate in producing a transport plane with a payload of six tons as well.
The private industry program seems doomed before it takes off. With 16 aircraft expected to be delivered in flyaway condition, just 40 numbers are not attractive enough for the industry that was hoping to get a minimum of 200 orders to make investment and project viable. This, we believe, will not be happening with the RFP that is looking at just 56. And though the RFP is expected to be released in December, there is doubt on the number of takers capable of handling the project.
However, the news of the soon to be released RFP is putting the monopoly of HAL under stress. HAL’s recent letter to the MoD pleads it should be included in the bid citing its experience. It has also considered using the services of a lobbyist, Aerospace Diary learns.
“HAL is hijacking the project,” said an Indian manufacturer.
Meanwhile, the MTA program is looking to replace the over 100 lighter transporters, AN-32s. “It is bizarre that the MTA is not a turboprop. Even the newest transport aircraft (in the category) like the Airbus A400M uses turboprop over jet engines as it allows the engine speed to be maintained at high speed while the props can be trimmed to match the aircraft speed, a major advantage during takeoff and landing from short runways particularly on India’s remote airfields,” says a defense official on anonymity. That Russia already has a design ready with a jet engine, is another explanation. “We are paying to appease the Russians,” says another disgruntled industry official.
However, some industry officials said they did not grasp the logic of “flogging an old horse (Avro). The private industry project is not a viable proposition. Given the changing times, we need a cargo capacity of 16 tons at least. India could not even develop a basic trainer and had to buy the PC-7 MkII. A transport aircraft is more complicated than a civil aircraft. Why not specialize first on building components and sub-systems?”