Airbus strikes deal to manufacture transport planes for Indian military


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The French aircraft manufacturer Airbus will produce C295 transport planes in collaboration with the Indian group Tata. So far, Indian military aviation has been strictly off limits to local private companies.

Airbus will deliver 16 flight-ready planes by 2025 while another 40 will be produced jointly with business empire Tata, which produces everything from salt to locomotives and is a household brand in India.

Airbus’ 56 tactical airlifters will replace the Indian Air Force’s British-sourced Avro airlifters, the defense ministry said.

“This is the first such project in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company,” the ministry said after the launch of Tata’s facility in the town of Vadodara in the state of Gujarat, October 30.

“The first aircraft made in India is expected in September 2026,” the ministry added of the nearly three billion euro collaboration between Tatas, Airbus and Spain-based Space SA, which was approved by Delhi in 2021.

As it stands, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics assembles Russian and British-sourced planes and manufactures trainer planes for India’s 1.3 million-strong army.

It took India more than 35 years to produce its own supersonic fighter jet, but the machine depends on foreign parts and still has start-up problems.

Modi’s Dream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the Tata-Airbus project as a “big step” for his ambition to turn India into a military manufacturing hub.

“We are taking a big step towards making India a defense manufacturing hub,” Modi said at the launch of the project in Gujarat, his home state.

“India manufactures its fighter jets, tanks and submarines. This Tata-Airbus project will advance our motto ‘Make-in-India, Make-for-Globe’,” Modi said.

“From now on, India will also manufacture transport planes. Soon, large airliners will also be built in India. The project will transform India’s defense aerospace sector and create a new ecosystem,” he added.

India, the world’s largest arms buyer after Saudi Arabia, recorded military exports worth 989 million euros in the first six months of 2022.

It aims to achieve an annual export target of 4.3 billion euros by 2025, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said at an international defense expo.

Prime Minister Modi said his government had brought in significant foreign capital into 60 domestic sectors, including three billion euros in the country’s fledgling aerospace industry since taking office in 2014.

It hopes foreign funding for local defense projects will soon reach 25 billion euros and boost its manufacturing campaign in India, launched in 2020.

The case brings smiles

The military industry has approved the C295 project amid reports that Tata and US-based Lockheed Martin were already in talks to manufacture the iconic Sikorsky helicopter for India’s tech-hungry armed forces.

The civilian sector also applauded the Varodara project.

“India is a growing market and there is huge business potential here,” said Hisashi Takeuchi, managing director of Maruti-Suzuki India Ltd., the country’s largest automaker.

“For most companies overseas, it’s a good market to break into and it’s a wise move for any company to come to India,” added Takeuchi, who hopes the European business of Tata will strengthen national skills.

“It will also propel India to produce quality systems, which will help India produce high-precision and high-quality manufacturing products,” the Tata Group added in a statement.

Commentator Shekhar Gupta said the project ended an era of state monopolies and could now “ignite a revolution by tapping into India’s enormous manufacturing depth for complex military systems”.


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