May 8, 2013 SOURCE: TRIBUNE INDIA
One of the oldest warhorses of the Indian Air Force, the Avro transport aircraft will soon get a fresh lease of life, enabling it to soldier on for at least another decade or so.
IAF sources said the upgradation suite envisioned for the Avro includes incorporating a radar, installing an auto-pilot system and a new communication system, besides better avionics. Studies have shown that the aircraft still retains some residual technical life and their life extension is feasible.
Though the initial batches of Avro aircraft, also known as HS-748, were initially procured from the United Kingdom and later these were licence-produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the upgrade will be undertaken by a private vendor, sources said. The MiG 21 is the only aircraft in IAF inventory that matches Avro in vintage.
The move to upgrade these vintage aircraft comes in the backdrop of major acquisitions hanging fire. While the contract for VVIP helicopters from Italy has run into rough weather, the procurement of the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft is still a long way from finalisation. The process to procure light utility helicopters remains grounded.
The IAF also plans to replace the existing Avro fleet and is seeking 56 transport aircraft in this category at an estimated price of $ three billion. The proposed aircraft would have a payload capacity of 6-8 tonnes.
The IAF began inducting Avro twin-engine turboprop aircraft in 1964. With 64 aircraft, this fleet formed the backbone of the IAF’s airlift capability till AN-12 and AN-32 were procured. At present about 30-odd aircraft still remain in service, mostly relegated to training and communication roles.
Avros also formed part of the IAF’s Communication Squadron designated for VVIP transport till this role was taken over the Brazilian Embrarer-135 executive jets in 2005.