The First C-295 tactical airlift transporter took off for India from the Seville airfield of Airbus Defence and Space in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday, with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari dubbing the acquisition a major milestone for enhancing the capability of the force as well as for the self-reliance of the indigenous defence industry.

Flown by a joint IAF-Airbus crew, the C-295, the first of 16 aircraft that will come out of Airbus’ San Pablo Sur facility at Seville and the remaining 40 to be manufactured by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. in Gujarat, will take stopovers at Malta, Egypt, and Bahrain before landing at Vadodara air base towards the weekend. The Air Chief Marshal also boarded the aircraft before inspecting it, along with IAF pilot Group Captain PS Negi.

On officially receiving the keys to the transporter at Seville, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said the acquisition was a major milestone for two reasons: “First, for the IAF, it improves our tactical airlift capabilities. For a nation, it marks the beginning of a new era. For Atmanirbhar Bharat, after the first 16 aircraft roll out from this plant, the 17th aircraft onward will be made in India. It’s a big step for the Indian aviation industry, where we will be manufacturing the first military transport aircraft in the country.”

The C295, which wears an indigenous electronic warfare suite, marks the beginning of the replacement of the IAF’s ageing Avros-748 fleet. It can carry up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, airdrop cargo, be used for medical evacuation, and take off and land on short and unpaved runways.

Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus’ Head of Military Air Systems, who was also present at the handover ceremony, stated, “It was only two years ago that we signed this contract with India, the largest order in the history of the C295”. Others present included India’s Ambassador to Spain, Dinesh K. Patnaik.

The second aircraft will be delivered to the IAF in May 2024, and the next 14 will be rolled out at a rate of one per month until August 2025, Airbus stated in a statement. However, the first C295 ‘Make in India’ will emerge from TASL’s Vadodara final assembly line in September 2026, giving a boost to Aatmanirbharta, or self-reliance, in the defence-manufacturing sector in India. “The production of components for these aircraft has already started in the Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) facility in Hyderabad, southern India. These parts will be shipped to the Vadovara FAL, which is expected to be operational by November 2024,” the Airbus stated.

The final aircraft is expected to be delivered to the IAF by August 2031. With 283 orders from 41 operators, the C-295 is the undisputed leader in its segment and stands out for its versatility, stated Airbus.