The joint venture partners for the $600-million multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) project, Russia and India, are set to sign a contract for freezing the preliminary design for the aircraft later this week.

The new development will give the project a much-needed shot in the arm.

Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony had earlier raised concern over the delay in project implementation.

Any further delays could turn out to be advantageous for aircraft makers such as Embraer which is developing a similar aircraft called KC 390 and is expected to be fly in 2014, sources in the industry said.

Both the partners, who hold 50 per cent each in the joint venture through HAL and United Aircraft Corporation respectively, signed a contract in May to develop and produce 205 multi-role transport aircraft.

These aircraft will be used for emergency and rescue operations, cargo, etc. The new contract is follow up of the agreement signed between the governments of India and Russia in September 2010.

N.C. Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer of the joint venture company, Multi-role Transport Aircraft Ltd, told Business Line that this new development was a definite step forward towards completion of the project.

The Russian Air Force expects to place orders for 100 of these aircraft while the Indian Air Force is likely to take 45 of them. The rest will be taken by a third party.

Incidentally, the $600-million project is based on 2006 price levels when the project was first conceived. The new multi-role transport aircraft will replace the An24 and An12s.

The MTAs are in the 15 tonne to 20 tonne category and have a range of 2,500 km and can fly at 800 km per hour.

The joint venture is learnt to have been given a specific time-frame for freezing specifications like engine and also the systems and the basic layout apart from vendors.

Priority will be given for carrying out the work in the specified time frame and also to get the right technology and work within the cost.

giriprakash.k@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 28, 2012)
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