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In a recent interview with Bharat Shakti Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhuri shed light on the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) plans for the recently issued Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) tender.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhuri confirmed that the IAF intends to utilize the MTA procurement to gradually phase out its fleet of Soviet-era An-32 and IL-76 transport aircraft starting from the early 2030s. These aging aircraft, while serving the IAF for decades, no longer meet the evolving needs of modern military operations.

The IAF is seeking a versatile MTA with a cargo carrying capacity ranging between 25 and 40 tons. This capacity falls between the An-32’s 7-ton payload and the IL-76’s 40-ton capacity, suggesting the IAF might be open to either a medium-weight or a heavy-weight class transporter.

Three contenders have emerged in the MTA tender race:

  • Embraer C-390M: Offers a 26-ton payload capacity, potentially aligning well with the IAF’s lower range of the desired capacity.
  • Airbus A400M: Boasts a 37-ton payload capacity, exceeding the IAF’s upper range but offering significant cargo-carrying potential.
  • Lockheed Martin C-130J: With a 20-ton payload capacity, falls below the IAF’s desired range but remains a well-established platform with a proven track record.

While the specific cargo capacity preference remains unclear, the IAF is likely to prioritize factors like operational range, fuel efficiency, and overall life-cycle costs alongside payload capacity when making the final selection.

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