NATIONAL

A shot in the arm for upgrade of An-32 aircraft

IAF’s An-32 transport aircraft.APMustafa Quraishi  

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has reason to cheer as all issues related to the upgrade of An-32 transport aircraft, its workhorse, have been resolved, according to the head of the Antonov State Corporation of Ukraine. At Aero India, Ukraine also offered its new An-132 aircraft to the IAF as a replacement for the An-32 fleet.

Time limit

“We are optimistic that the pending issues will be closed shortly… Ukraine should supply all spares and material in two years. After that, it is on India how fast the upgrades are finished,” Oleksandr Donets, President of Antonov, said in a conversation with The Hindu on the sidelines of Aero India. Ukraine has begun supplying the upgrade kits to India.

Mr. Donets said that preliminary discussions have been held with the IAF on further life extension of the An-32 fleet by another five years. Antonov, which is the design organisation, has already checked the feasibility of further five year life extensions by conducting testing and ground vibrations.

In 2009, India finalised a major upgrade and life extension plan for the entire fleet of 105 An-32 aircraft acquired from Soviet Union under a $400 million deal which would extend their life to 40 years. So far, 46 aircraft have been upgraded, of which 40 were done in Ukraine.

The rest were to be carried out in India by IAF’s base repair depot in Kanpur. But the programme came to a halt after bitter relations between Moscow and Kiev following the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Mr. Donets said that the delay was mainly due to delay in securing spare parts produced in Russia and the gravity of the problem has now “decreased.”

At the air show, an An-132 prototype, an upgraded variant of the An-32, performed impressive turns, loops, low and high speed manoeuvres. According to Antonov, the aircraft jointly designed by Ukraine and Saudi Arabia can carry a load of upto 9 tonnes and land at high altitudes and on unpaved runways.

Mr. Donets said the An-132, which is a major improvement in terms of features and performance over the An-32, makes an ideal replacement for the IAF, and offered joint production in India under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa examined the aircraft at the show. During Aero India, Antonov briefed the IAF and also held several meetings for possible partnerships on the An-132 programme.

Stating that they were looking for international partners for the An-132 programme, Mr. Donets said his team had held discussions with Peru and Myanmar.

“We have completed contract for the demonstrator. Currently, Saudi Arabia is approaching for a contract for serial production,” he said.

In the pipeline

An Avro replacement programme of the IAF is currently in the pipeline, for which the Airbus C-295 has been chosen in partnership with Tata group. However, final contract discussions have been delayed. Another project for the joint development of a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) with Russia was shelved. The An-132 is in the same class as the C-295 and the now shelved MTA.