July, 9

    India prepares to buy 15 C295 maritime patrol variants

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    Editor’s note: Vivek Raghuvanshi, a journalist and freelancer to Defense News for more than three decades, was jailed in mid-May by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of espionage. The Indian government has released minimal information on his arrest. Sightline Media Group, which owns Defense News, has not seen any evidence to substantiate these charges and repudiates attacks on press freedom.

    CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — India is moving closer to buying 15 maritime patrol variants of the Airbus C295 aircraft, following permission from the country’s Defence Acquisition Council

    This initial approval from Feb. 16, called acceptance of necessity in Defence Ministry parlance, will see the Navy receive nine C295 medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and the Coast Guard get six C295 multimission maritime aircraft.

    Once a contract is signed, a joint venture between the French firm Airbus and the Indian business Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. would manufacture the aircraft in India.

    The Air Force previously placed a contract for 56 C295 transport aircraft, of which the first 16 are under production in Spain and the remainder in Tata’s final assembly line in the Indian city of Vadodara.

    Although Airbus offers a maritime patrol version of the C295 — Spain ordered 16 in December — the Indian Navy and Coast Guard platforms will receive locally made sensors such as an active electronically scanned array radars, identification friend or foe systems, data links, and electro-optic/infrared technology. The Centre for Airborne Systems, a branch of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, is developing this equipment as part of the government’s efforts toward greater self-sufficiency in defense production.

    Medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft would help India monitor nearby waters as well as gather electronic and communications intelligence. The aircraft would supplement 12 P-8I aircraft used for anti-submarine warfare.

    With around 11 hours of endurance, the variant would also provide longer-range capability than existing Dornier 228 aircraft. The Navy is also set to receive 15 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to boost maritime surveillance.

    The Indian government has expressed concern about the Chinese military’s activities in the Indian Ocean, and the Indian Navy has carried out anti-piracy operations in the nearby Gulf of Aden since 2008.

    Meanwhile, the Coast Guard’s C295 variants would conduct maritime surveillance, anti-piracy missions, pollution monitoring, search and rescue, disaster response, and fisheries protection.

    The acceptance of necessity brings India’s formal requirement for C295 aircraft to 71.

    M. Matheswaran, a retired Indian Air Force air marshal and head of the India-based think tank The Peninsula Foundation, told Defense News that there’s a potential for export opportunities.

    “Joining hands with established majors like Airbus is not only [advantageous for] the domestic market, but [also helps it] become part of the global supply chain. Exports are extremely vital for that,” Matheswaran said, predicting Tata could produce 300-400 C295 aircraft.

    Gordon Arthur is an Asia correspondent for Defense News. After a 20-year stint working in Hong Kong, he now resides in New Zealand. He has attended military exercises and defense exhibitions in about 20 countries around the Asia-Pacific region.

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