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In a move to bolster its aerial capabilities, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is actively engaged in discussions with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the renowned state-owned aerospace and defence company in India. HAL, in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has presented a compelling proposal to convert civilian airliners into Multi-Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) aircraft within the country.

The Boeing 767-based MMTT has emerged as a strong contender, with IAI and HAL favouring this platform for its versatility and potential for adaptation to the IAF’s requirements. While the IAF is yet to make a final decision on the type of aircraft, the Boeing 767 platform is likely to be the preferred choice. The primary objective is to meet the IAF’s combined requirement of 12 mid-air refuelers, which will supplement the existing fleet of six Ilyushin Il-78 tankers acquired in 2002.

The proposed plan entails the procurement of six MMTTs in the first phase, with an additional three in the second phase as the need arises. Interestingly, the IAF is also considering the possibility of acquiring Airbus A330-based Tankers from the French Air Force, albeit at a later stage. The original plan to procure Airbus A330-based Tankers had been rejected due to the high unit cost of the aircraft.

Once the final configuration is determined, HAL will initiate the tendering process for the purchase of pre-owned Boeing 767s from Indian Aircraft leasing companies, ensuring that the aircraft is no older than ten years. Subsequently, the conversion activities will be carried out locally at a HAL facility, with assistance from IAI. This collaborative effort will pave the way for the establishment of a capable and self-reliant air tanker fleet for the IAF.

While the finer details of the contract are still being negotiated, HAL and IAF are aiming to sign the agreement shortly, possibly by next year.

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