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Wings of change- C-295 MRTT

By Vikas Uttamrao Thombare

C 295 is a twin turboprop tactical transport aircraft manufactured by Airbus Defence & Space. On 24 July 2012, IAF issued an RFI for 56 transport planes at a cost of roughly $ 2.5 billion & on 13 May 2015, India finalised a deal for a complement of 56 aircraft with airbus.

GENERAL FEATURES

The C295 is a tactical transport aircraft capable of lifting 6 tonnes. Airbus claims it can carry five cargo pallets or 50 paratroopers. The C295 is capable of operating “from short (no longer than 670 m/2,200 ft), soft and rough (CBR 2) unprepared airstrips. Therefore, the aircraft can land on and take off from short, unprepared airstrips not accessible to heavier transport aircraft, a feature which makes it useful for operations from Advanced Landing Grounds all along India’s frontier with China. For the Indian Air Force, C295s will come as replacements for its ageing Avro HS748 transport aircraft.

NAVY AND INS VIKRAMADITYA: –

Ever since the induction of INS Vikramaditya into Indian service, the Indian navy has been unable to utilise the full potential of the aircraft carrier primarily because the ship was reconfigured from a cruiser to an STOBAR which was earlier used to operate aircrafts like YAK-38 and helicopters like Kamov Ka-27/29. Owing to such limitations, MIG 29Ks, its primary embarked aircrafts, cannot fly with their full load configuration. They can either carry more weapons & less fuel or vice versa; the trade off, though viable, is in no way optimal.

Solution: – In December 2019, a C295 fitted with removable AAR (air to air refuelling) kit was used as a mid-air refueller to refuel a Spanish air force’s C295 at a speed of 100-130 knots and successfully transferred 1.5 tons fuel over a span of  5 wet contacts. A similar modus operandi can help the Indian navy maximize the operational potential of MIG 29k onboard INS Vikramaditya. For instance, were the aircrafts to carry their full ammunition payload and just enough fuel, additional mid-air refuelling by a C295 based tanker and can easily increase flying time while decreasing downtime.

ANOTHER SPECTRUM: –

Since India operates two Netra AWACS based on Embraer EMB- 145, and since it was offered NETRA onboard the C295 in April 2019 it can add a whole new dimension to the navy’s maritime operations. Also, this has a far reaching advantage, quite literally! Working in tandem with C295 AWACs would extend INS Vikramaditya operational range exponentially.

TRILATERAL ASSETS INTEGRATION: –

In the recent years, Indian armed forces decided to integrate all their assets under one umbrella to ensure effective strategic utilisation. The effects of integrated deployments were seen, heard, and felt clearly during the recent LAC standoff where IN’s P8I and MIG 29k were used extensively for patrolling the skies. Netra AWACS onboard C295 would come handy for the IAF too as AWACS ensures optimized tactical deployment of available air assets based to the type and level of threat perception. Also, IAF is suffering from the dwindling numbers of its force due to cost overruns and delay. All in all, acquiring such a flexible platform will enhance the interoperability between the forces by folds.

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