India Readies for First Private Defense Project
India will likely extend the submission deadline of a request for proposals (RFP) to replace the Indian Air Force’s aging Avro/Hawker Siddeley HS.748M turboprops by another month, a defense ministry official told AIN. The deadline is currently October 8; however, manufacturers face a challenge in identifying private partners in India that have adequate facilities for final assembly and component and sub-system manufacture of the replacement aircraft.
Indian government-owned companies are not allowed to participate in the HS.748 replacement bid, a first for defense procurement. The winning vendor will be expected to deliver 16 aircraft in flyaway condition within two years and begin manufacturing another 40 in an Indian partner’s facility in five years, with all aircraft to be delivered within 120 months of the contract signing. The aircraft will have an integrated electronic warfare suite, which includes a Bharat Electronics radar warning receiver and missile approach warning system and Bharat Dynamics countermeasure dispensing system.
India’s defense ministry issued the RFP to eight companies in May. The likely contenders are Antonov’s An-26, the Ilyushin Il-112, Alenia Aermacchi C-27J and EADS Casa C-295. The Indian air force already operates more than 100 An-26s. “Our history with our Indian partners is long. Our aim is to establish this collaboration with our new [private] partners,” said Dmytro Kiva, Antonov president and general designer.
The RFP seeks proposals for “depot” level maintenance and lifecycle support and costs. A performance-based logistics package based on an average of 480 flying hours a year is also required. Recognizing the importance of lifecycle support, which has often been lacking from Russian vendors to India, Kiva said: “Earlier it was the government in charge. Now it is us. We have a training center; we provide warranties and delivery of parts.”
The Indian government-owned manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), has been criticized for its inability to deliver on programs, but it has the necessary facilities for aircraft testing and manufacture, industry representatives said. While HAL cannot be the lead partner for the HS.748 replacement, it will be allowed to participate as a tier-one supplier.