In a significant development, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to convert civil passenger aircraft to Multi Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) aircraft in India. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been looking to procure new mid-air refuellers for sometime.
“Under the pact signed recently, HAL will convert pre-owned civil (passenger) aircraft into air refueling aircraft with cargo and transport capabilities. The move will provide India’s defence ecosystem with new capabilities and cost effective solutions in the market,” HAL said in a statement. The scope of the MoU also covers “passenger to freighter aircraft” conversion along with MMTT conversions, it stated.
A defence official said the aircraft likely to be converted was a Boeing 767 passenger jet.
“We are glad to join hands with our long-standing partner IAI in this venture of MMTT conversion business, which is one of the strategic diversification avenues identified by HAL,” R. Madhavan, Chief Managing Director HAL, said.
The IAF presently has six Russian IL-78 tankers and has been looking to procure six new aircraft for sometime, but the deal has been repeatedly delayed. It has been looking to reissue the tender but the financial crunch had made it rethink the acquisition. To meet requirements in the interim, it has been looking at leasing some mid-air refuellers, an option introduced in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.
Mid-air refuelling significantly enhances the range and payload of fighter jets. It also allows the aircraft to stay in the air much beyond their normal limits allowing better exploitation of the platforms capabilities.
As reported by The Hindu earlier, IAF officials had stated that broadly wet lease of platforms could be used for peacetime use and dry leasing to cater to operational requirements. In wet lease, the platforms have to be maintained by the company supplying them, be it the original equipment manufacturer or the aggregator.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is all set to release the third positive indigenisation list, the items in which cannot be imported by the Services. The earlier lists have barred imports of 209 major platforms and systems.
Workshop on Quantum Technologies
In a separate development, a two-day Indo-Israel bilateral workshop on Quantum Technologies organised by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and IIT Delhi concluded. The objective of the workshop was to deliberate on quantum technologies, evolve a joint quantum technology road map and plan for developing technologies by collaboration between both the countries, the DRDO said in a statement.
The workshop was the next step of the Bilateral Innovation Agreement (BIA) signed between the DRDO and the Directorate of Defense Research & Development, Israel, in November 2021 to promote innovation and accelerated research and development in start-ups and MSMEs of both countries.