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Aero India 2023

India to purchase Airbus refuelling tanker

A file photo of A330 MRTT

NEW DELHI (BNS): India is likely to purchase six A330 MRTT jets in a deal worth around £600m, instead of the Russian-built Ilyushin-78 air-to-air tankers, a media report said.

According to the Daily Post report Thursday, AIRBUS has won another order for its multi-role tanker transport - an aircraft that is looking increasingly pivotal to the future of the company’s wingmaking factory in north east Wales.

After inducting its first Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the India Air Force (IAF) is planning to replace the Russian IL-76 aircraft with some other aircraft as the platform for the system in future.

India has used Ilyushin tankers for almost six years but now it is breaking with Russia as its main defence supplier because the Airbus aircraft is regarded as superior for the job.

Mid-air refuelling MRTTs – a military derivative of the Airbus A330 airliner – are already being bought by air forces in the UK, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

However, officials said the process to look out for new platforms for AWACS will begin only after the remaining two systems are inducted in the IAF. The second of the AWACS is expected to be in India by early 2010 and the last one by the end of next year.

“The first three AWACS will be based on the Russian IL-76s but they are older aircraft and they will be replaced with modern aircraft, which have same endurance as the IL-76," an IAF source told PTI here.

The AWACS bought from Israel was formally handed over to the IAF's newly-formed Agra-based 50 Squadron at a brief ceremony here by Indian Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday.

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