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India’s foray into military transport aviation has seen a rich history, with the Antonov An-12 playing a significant role for a period. However, unlike China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) which pursued license production of the An-12 (known as the Y-8 in China) with great success, India did not.

China’s decision to license-produce the An-12 as the Y-8 proved highly successful. The Y-8 program yielded over 40 variants, demonstrating the aircraft’s versatility and adaptability. This extensive production not only fulfilled China’s military transport needs but also provided a valuable platform for its nascent aviation industry.

Building the An-12 under license would have fostered a deeper understanding of its design and systems within the Indian aerospace sector. This knowledge transfer would have nurtured a generation of aeronautical engineers who could have then contributed to the development of indigenous aircraft programs.

License production would have reduced dependence on foreign suppliers for spare parts and maintenance, leading to greater self-reliance and potentially lower long-term operational costs. The An-12’s production line could have served as a foundation for developing indigenous variants tailored to India’s specific military and civilian transport needs. This could have included upgrades to engines, avionics, and payload capacity.

The success of the Y-8 program suggests that IAF might have missed a valuable opportunity by not pursuing license production of the An-12. The experience and knowledge gained could have significantly accelerated India’s journey towards self-sufficiency in the aviation sector.

While the An-12 window may have closed, India can leverage this experience in future collaborations. Considering license production or joint ventures with foreign companies for strategic aircraft programs like for the MTA tenders that could prove beneficial, fostering domestic technological expertise while fulfilling critical military needs.