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The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) quest for a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) takes an interesting turn as HAL too wants to throw its hat in the ring, offering to design and build a 30-ton payload-carrying transporter in collaboration with an international OEM. This comes amidst increasing competition from global players and ongoing deliberations within the IAF about its desired capabilities for the MTA.

A HAL official, speaking to, expressed the company’s confidence in its capabilities. They highlighted the ability to co-develop a 30-ton payload-carrying aircraft with an international partner, ensuring “Make in India” execution and retaining intellectual property rights (IPR) within the country. This proposal comes after the failed joint venture with Russia in 2017, leaving the IAF without a clear path forward.

Meanwhile, the landscape is changing rapidly. The C295, to be manufactured locally by Tata-Airbus, will replace the ageing Avro HS748. Furthermore, IAF’s interest in procuring more C295s as an An-32 replacement suggests a possible shift in the definition of the MTA itself. This could lead to a demand for an aircraft positioned between the C295’s capacity and the larger IL-76.

Global players are not sitting idle. Embraer’s C-390 has partnered with Mahindra, while Tata has joined forces with Airbus for the A400M. Lockheed Martin also offers the C-130J through a tie-up with Tata. This intense competition highlights the pressure on HAL to present a compelling proposal soon if it wants to avoid losing out to the private sector once again.

The IAF’s MTA decision will have significant strategic and economic implications. Balancing operational needs, budget constraints, and technology acquisition strategies will be crucial. Whether HAL’s collaboration with an international partner will be enough to secure the MTA contract remains to be seen. One thing is certain: the competition is fierce, and the IAF’s final decision will be closely watched by the entire industry.

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