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Indo-Russian project to replace An-32 in limbo

The fate of the medium transport aircraft, the planned replacement for the An-32s to be jointly developed by India and Russia, seems uncertain with India having second thoughts on the project, but Russia deciding to go ahead with the initial design on its own following the unending delay.

The two countries signed an inter-governmental agreement in 2007 to develop and produce the 20-tonne aircraft to replace the An-32 transport aircraft in service in both the Indian and Russian air forces. In 2009, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) and the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) of Russia set up a joint venture with an investment of $300 million each by the two air forces. However, differences over the nature of the engine stalled progress.

Non-starter

A senior defence official said the project was going nowhere. “While it exists on paper, on the ground nothing is moving,” he said. “Within the Indian Air Force, there are various opinions on even the need for the MTA. It has not been called off, but it is in a standstill,” he told The Hindu.

Ilyushin Corporation of Russia has started to “blow” the model of what it calls the Il-214 in an aerodynamic tube to optimise characteristics.

“We have, as you know, completed the first stage and are awaiting feedback from the Indian side,” a Russian official told The Hindu.

When contacted on the status of the project and resolution of the differences, a UAC representative said in a written reply, “You should rather ask the Indian MoD or the IAF.” When contacted, HAL officials too declined to comment on the issue.

Upgrade programme

Senior UAC officials had told The Hindu in the past that the engine India wanted was not specified in the preliminary contract and they were waiting for the Indian side to accept the design so that work could begin. A new engine could be added later, they stated.

With the issue unresolved, the IAF has simultaneously undertaken a major upgrade of the An-32s to extend their service life from 25 to 40 years.

In a $400-million contract signed with Ukraine in 2009, 40 aircraft were to be sent to that country in batches beginning 2011, while the remaining are to be upgraded at the IAF’s Base Repair Depot in Kanpur.

The issue of a new aircraft gains urgency in the light of the missing An-32 over the Bay of Bengal two weeks ago. However, it remains unclear what the options are if the MTA project falls through as the IAF needs a new aircraft to replace the ageing workhorse.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 7:22:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Indo-Russian-project-to-replace-An-32-in-limbo/article14555414.ece

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