SOURCE: JATIN RAM / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Earlier this year Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI) showcased a computer-generated rendering of proposed multirole military transport aircraft the company is planning to develop for the South Korean military as well as for export. According to KAI, military transport aircraft will be in the same class as Japan’s C2 and US’s C-17 transport aircraft.
KAI proposed aircraft will be a Medium-size, twin-engined platform with capabilities that include troop/cargo transport, support of special forces operations, and the launch of small satellite-carrying rockets into space.
KAI has no history of license manufacturing transport aircraft let alone develop one locally but this ambitious project seems to display growing confidence of the Korean military complex that it has set a pretty ambitious target for the program. KAI is seeking an investment of $2.7 Billion and plans to have the first aircraft ready in seven years that will be pretty impressive if they can pull this off.
KAI is relying on tried and trusted formula of the company to pull this off. KAI plans to outsource and seek technology mostly from the western countries that include the development of landing gears and avionics of the aircraft while engines will be sourced from international OEMs that will also see design consultancy agreements with a reputed firm.
India recently placed orders for procurement of 56 C-295 aircraft that will beef up India’s Mid-Tier Transport fleet and will replace the aging Avro fleet and possibly also AN-32 fleet in near future, but India will also have to face the reality that 17 Ilyushin Il-76 Strategic airlifter procured in the early ’80s are aging fast and are already facing issues due lack of spare leading to low serviceability of the entire fleet that now also requires modernization that is pending due fleets growing age.
IAF is already short by 2 C-17 when it failed to pick up more Strategic airlifter after closing down the production line by Boeing. In short, India will require 20 Strategic airlifter to replace its existing fleet and beef up its present fleet and nobody is talking about options or military ties up to develop a replacement. IAF should talk to KAI and get details of the plane they plan to develop and if it meets its requirement then it should explore ways it can be pursued.
IAF also has been offered for joint development of An-178 medium transport aircraft by Ukraine but it doesn’t seem IAF is considering their proposal yet. NAL has got permission to design 90-seater aircraft that is quite similar to the very popular Bombardier Q400 but, It’s still not clear if NAL plans to develop a Strategic airlifter variant of the jet that will also have a ramp door feature for transport operations. CSIR-NAL 90–seater Regional Transport Aircraft can have multi-mission aircraft (MMA) for maritime to aerial surveillance but no clarity of a Transport version of it.
IAF sooner or later will have to look out for options to replace Ilyushin Il-76 and also IL-78 AWACS/MID-Air Refuelling aircraft soon for which it will need to look out for 25 Ilyushin Il-76 class aircraft that could require long term planning, not last-minute wake-up call and emergency procurement deals. An indigenous Strategic airlifter program even a joint venture will be a bigger program than the C-295 deal that we just concluded.