Focus on Indigenous Serviceability: Indian Air Force Draws Up Roadmap to Outsource Overhaul of 60 AN-32 Aircraft to the Industry

Defence Industry

New Delhi: Drawing up a roadmap to outsource part of the repair and overhaul of airframes along with certain components of the Soviet-origin AN-32 tactical transport aircraft to the industry, the Indian Air Force (IAF)  is seeking proposals from the industry, including original equipment manufacturers and joint venture firms. It includes overhaul processes as well as carrying out studies for technical life extension of the airframes and components beyond 40 years.

It is expected that the outsourcing will commence this year. The IAF’s defined requirement is to overhaul 60 AN-32 aircraft by the end of 2028-29 fiscal, with the average output being 15 aircraft per overhaul cycle.

According to air force sources, the AN-32 overhaul process includes a total of 11 stages, out of which five would be outsourced to the industry. These include disassembly of sub-systems and components, cleaning and paint removal, structural repair and refurbishment, re-assembly of sub-systems and final painting. The work would be carried out at No. 1 Base Repair Depot (BRD) at Kanpur. While this depot is responsible for the repair and overhaul of AN-32 airframe and other components, the engines of these aircraft are overhauled at No. 3 BRD in Chandigarh.

The physical infrastructure, including work space and hangars, overhaul technology, training, specialised tools and test rigs will be provided by the IAF, while the industrial partner will be responsible for provisioning manpower, general tools, spares and aggregates and ensuring safety protocols.

The twin-engine AN-32 turboprop were procured from the erstwhile Soviet Union and began entering Indian service in 1984. A total of 125 aircraft were bought, out of which over 100 are said to be in service. These are heavily used for crucial air maintenance in northern and north-eastern sectors, besides performing other tasks such as tactical airlift, communication, para-troop training and disaster management.

In a deal finalised with Ukraine in 2009, the entire fleet was to be upgraded. It included total technical life extension, repowering the engines, certain structural modifications to reduce weight, noise and vibrations, installation of a glass cockpit with a new avionics suite and flight management system, satellite navigation system and anti-collision systems. Some aircraft were modified in Ukraine, while the remaining fleet was to be modified in India by No. 1 BRD.

Recently, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in the Parliament that half the AN-32 fleet had been upgraded. The IAF is laying greater impetus on the indigenous route for ensuring serviceability of its equipment as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and other geo-political developments are affecting the supply of spares for Russian-origin military platforms.