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The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) program, initially envisioned as an Antonov An-32 replacement, has undergone a shift. With plans to acquire additional C295s for the An-32 role, the focus now falls on finding a successor for the aging Ilyushin Il-76 fleet by 2035. In this new scenario, the Airbus A400M Atlas emerges as a potential frontrunner.

The IAF’s initial requirement for the MTA program was a payload capacity between 18 and 30 tonnes, primarily targeting the An-32 replacement. However, the decision to acquire more C295s has opened the door for larger and more capable aircraft for the Il-76 role.

While the A400M’s 37-tonne payload falls short of the Il-76MD’s 48-tonne capacity, it surpasses the other contenders in the MTA race: Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules (18 tonnes) and Embraer’s C-390 Millennium (26 tonnes). This, combined with its advanced features like longer range and rough-field capabilities, makes the A400M a strong candidate for the Il-76 replacement.

Airbus faces competition from other players like Boeing’s Used C-17 Globemaster III, but its higher cost might be a disadvantage. Additionally, the IAF’s Make in India initiative could favor contenders offering greater local manufacturing opportunities.

The IAF’s final decision on the MTA program is yet to be made. Factors like technical specifications, operational requirements, acquisition cost, and Make in India compliance will play a crucial role in the selection process.

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