The MRCA contract of 126 aircraft (may go up to 200) for Indian Air Force has been in such a limelight, that it has pushed many other important developments into the shadows. One such development has been augmentation in the fleet of transport aircraft for IAF.
Indian Air Force had been relying on Antonov An-32 Cline for medium airlift, and on Ilyushin Il-76 Candid for heavy airlift, for multiple decades. Few years back, IAF realized that time has come for an upgrade of existing platforms and induction of new platforms inline with the strategic goal of maintaining the air superiority, both in terms of transport squadrons as well as the combat squadrons.
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules was the first decision on those lines. followed by Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, both being acquired from United States. Along with that came the development of UAC/HAL MTA in partnership with Russian Federation.
Indian Air Force transport aircraft inventory should have the following aircraft, by year 2020 -
|Antonov AN-32 Cline||~ 08 Tons|
|Ilyushin IL-76 Candid||~ 50 Tons|
|Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules||~ 20 Tons|
|Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (by 2013)||~ 80 Tons|
|UAC/HAL MTA IL-214 (under development)||~ 22 Tons|
IAF's An-32 Cline on a sortie ( Image Courtesy - airteamimages.com )
IAF's Ilyushin-76 at Red Flag Exercise in United States ( Image Courtesy - bharat-rakshak.com )
IAF's C-130 J Super Hercules on its way to India from United States ( Image Courtesy - xairforces.net )
A C-17 Globemater on a test flight after upgrade ( Image Courtesy - anupkumarchaturvedi.com )
An artist representation of HAL/UAC Multi-role Transport Aircraft ( Image Courtesy - airforce-technology.com )
The interesting part of HAL/UAC MTA development is that it is being developed to replace AN-32 Cline. As per the current timeline, MTA should be ready to join IAF by 2016. So, MTA will start flying along with AN-32 and would start to replace it from 2025. But MTA is a bigger aircraft with 22 tons payload and will replace a much smaller aircraft An-32 with just 8 tons payload. Hence, this replacement, though looking a normal replacement process from outside, will actually increase the transport capability of IAF, manifolds !!!
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