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Embraer teams up with Mahindra to bid for IAF’s medium transport aircraft deal

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer Defense & Security and Mahindra signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly bid for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Medium Transport (MTA) Aircraft tender. Embraer is pitching its C-390 Millennium multi-mission aircraft for the deal. The MoU was signed at the Embassy of Brazil in New Delhi on Friday.

“We are honored to announce this MoU with Mahindra. India has a diverse and strong defense and aerospace industry and we have chosen Mahindra as our partner to jointly pursue the MTA program” said Mr Bosco da Costa Junior, President & CEO, Embraer Defense & Security in a statement. “India is a key market for Embraer and we fully support India’s ambitions for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. We see this partnership as a symbol of strengthening relations between Brazil and India and a way to foster Global South cooperation.”

Embraer and Mahindra will engage with the IAF to identify the next steps of the MTA program, as well as contact the local aerospace industry in India to start developing the industrialisation plan for the project, the company said in a statement.

The C-390 Millennium multi-mission tactical transport aircraft offers unmatched mobility, combining high productivity, and operating flexibility with low operating costs, which is an unbeatable combination, the company said. “The current fleet of aircraft in operation has accumulated more than 11,500 flight hours, with operational availability of around 80% and mission completion rates above 99%, demonstrating exceptional productivity in the category.”

The C-390 Millennium attained its Full Operational Capability status with the Brazilian Air Force in 2023 and there is also a configuration with air-to-air refuelling equipment, with the designation KC-390 which functions both as a tanker and as a receiver, the statement added. “Both Embraer and Mahindra will explore the potential to turn India into a future hub of the C-390 aircraft for the region,” the statement read.

The IAF issued a Request for Information (RFI) for a MTA in December 2022 and the deadline to respond expired on March 31, 2023. There are three responses to the RFI which include the Airbus A-400M, the Lockheed Martin C-130, and the Embraer C-390. Among them, the A-400M has a maximum carrying capacity of 37 tonnes, the C-130 close to 20 tonnes and the C-390 can carry up to 26 tonnes.

The RFI states that the MTA should have a load carrying capacity between 18 to 30 tonnes and has carried comprehensive study to identify the current and future payload carrying requirements of the force.

The MTA could become a potential replacement for a part of the much smaller AN-32s in service and could also replace the larger IL-76, which is also being looked into. There is a huge gap in carrying capacities at the moment with the current aircraft which needs to adjusted, as reported earlier.

The transport fleet of the IAF currently consists of over 100 AN-32s, 56 AVROs in the process of being replaced with the Airbus C-295, the IL-76 heavy transports, and the IL-78 mi-air refuelling tankers from Russia, the 12 C-130J Super Hercules and the 11 C-17 Globemaster strategic airlift aircraft from the US. Of these, the IL-76 has a capacity to list 45-50 tonnes and the C-17 up to 70 tonnes.

An earlier project to jointly co-develop and produce a MTA of 20 tonnes with Russia to replace the An-32s was scrapped few years back after initial design discussions, as reported by The Hindu earlier.

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