IAF looking for new transport aircraft – Is Embraer’s C-390 Millennium coming?

The aerospace major Embraer is expected to participate in the Aero-india 2023 next week. There is no confirmation from Embraer if the C390 will be showcased during the show.

The Resurrection of Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) Project
Embraer’s C-390 Millennium is a new design and a jet aircraft with significant advantages in speed, range and operational efficiency. It is a versatile aircraft with fly-by-wire controls, glass cockpit, payload capability of 26 tonne and optimised for multiple roles. (Image Courtesy: Embraer)

Ahead of the Aero-India 2023, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated the process for acquiring a medium transport aircraft (MTA) which has the capability of lifting 18-30 tonnes.

In December the IAF issued a Request for Information (RFI) for MTA, which is expected to replace the existing AN-32 transport aircraft which are in service. And the bid submission date has been extended from Feb 3, 2023 to March 31, 2023.

Which are the other transport aircraft in the IAF Fleet?

Besides the AN-32 and Avro fleet that IAF flies, there are 12 C-130J Super Hercules from Lockheed Martin and 11 C-17 Globemaster strategic airlift aircraft from the US. Also there is Russian IL-76 heavy transport and mid-air refueling tanker IL-78.

What does the RFI specify?

According to the RfI, within 36 months of signing the contract the deliveries are expected to start. The vendors according to the RfI are expected to share details about the overall time frame of production; delivery schedule with stage wise breakup of the entire project is expected to be submitted post conclusion of contract.

For a batch of 40 aircraft/60 aircraft/80 aircraft, respectively, the RfI wants the vendors to submit Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) which includes the cost of aircraft and associated equipment among others.

Will the Embraer’s C 390 of Brazil fit the bill?

As the Indian Air Force (IAF) eyes for a new transport aircraft, Brazilian aerospace manufacturing giant Embraer is likely to offer its C390 Millennium aircraft. The aerospace major Embraer is expected to participate in the Aero-india 2023 next week. Will the C390 Millennium be present is something which is not clear.  There is no confirmation from Embraer if the C390 will be showcased during the show.

(Image Courtesy: Embraer)

Financial Express Online had reported in June 2022 that the company officials have indicated that this transport aircraft has been offered to the IAF. The C390 has been ordered by several countries including the Netherlands in a competition against Lockheed Martin’s C130-H Super Hercules.

The Brazilian Air Force is flying this aircraft which is a twin-engine, medium-size, jet-powered military transport aircraft from 2019.

It has a load capacity of 26 tonnes (57,000 lb) and has the capability of performing different operational roles which include aerial refueling, transporting VIPs to cargo, and also carrying out more challenging logistical operations including aerial refueling. This aircraft is the heaviest to be manufactured by the aerospace giant of Brazil – Embraer. And can be operated with a three person flight crew — two pilots and a loadmaster. It has the capacity to carry 80 troops, or a combination 74 stretchers and eight attendants or 66 paratroopers.

Is Embraer in Talks with the IAF?

In an earlier conversation with Financial Express Online, Jackson Schneider, President & CEO, Embraer Defense & Security had said that the company is open to work with an Indian partner and would deliver the best solution to India by integrating locally manufactured components, capabilities and capacities. And after fulfilling India’s orders it would be exported too with Indian parts on board, he had stated in 2022.

In the new competition Lockheed Martin is expected to be a tough competitor to the Brazilian Embraer’s C390.

Mid-air refueller

Since the IAF is also looking to either lease to buy mid-air refuellers, these aircraft can be used in that role too. To meet its urgent requirement talks had been going on with Airbus for leasing A 330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) and Boeing’s KC-46 tanker which is a derivative of Boeing 767 passenger aircraft.

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First published on: 07-02-2023 at 17:54 IST