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An-178 twin-jet

Reliance Defence said 31 March 2016 it would establish a joint venture with Ukraine's Antonov, makers of AN 32 aircraft in service with the IAF, in the field of transport aircraft for military and civil uses. "Reliance Defence Ltd along with Ukraine based State Corporation Antonov have agreed to cooperate on dual version transport aircraft for Military, Para military and Commercial use in India," the group said in a statement.

Initial reporting did not identify the model of jet to be developed and produced. But from news reports, uit seems to be the An-178 twin-jet. The partnership of Reliance Defence and Antonov envisions design of fixed wing Military Aircraft configured for use in tactical as well strategic roles. Powered by two turbofan high fuel efficiency jet engines, the medium lift aircraft is capable of short field runways operating from remote airfields with unpaved surfaces.

India has requirement of over 200 medium lift turbofan aircraft which is the back bone of all tactical Logistic Transport Support Role (TSR) as well as Route Transport Roles (RTR) of the Air Force, Army and para military forces. There is requirement of more than 500 aircraft in different roles and the market size is expected to exceed Rs 35,000 crore over next 15 years, the Reliance Group said. the Indian Air Force operates more than 100 An-32 aircraft, for which the An-132 aircraft is being developed as replacement.

An agreement was reached between Anil Ambani, Chairman of the Reliance Group and Oleg Gladkovskyi, Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine and the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee of Ukraine for Military Technical Cooperation and Export Control Policy on the sidelines of the Defence Expo at Goa.

Reliance Defence together with State Corporation ANTONOV would jointly address various requirements including 50-80 seat passenger aircraft in its basic configuration and in all its variants such as transport, maritime patrol and other military roles. The partnership agreement would provide the benefits of quality and low cost solution for 50-80 seater aircraft through its core competencies.

In the Indian civil aviation market, this medium category aircraft could effectively plug the gap in regional air transport connectivity to around 350 unused airstrips currently available across the country and is in consonance with the new draft Civil Aviation policy by MoCA. Low level tactical missions by this aircraft is aided by modern day avionics and navigation systems powered by fly-by-wire systems in all weather round the clock operations.

The JV envisaged design and manufacture of the medium lift dual use turbofan aircraft in India with transfer of niche technologies. "This will be located at Indias first integrated Aerospace Park at Mihan, Nagpur. The program valued at over Rs 35,000 crore is estimated to generate employment for over 7,000 people in the primary and secondary industrial sectors in the region," the statement said.

The JV proposal came at a time when India was in the midst of acquiring new transport aircraft and was in the process of upgrading the 105-strong fleet of AN 32, the country's primary transport aircraft.

In May 2015, the government cleared the lone bid of Airbus-TATA consortium for replacing Indian Air Forces fleet of ageing Avro transport aircraft for Rs 11,930 crore. Antanov stayed away from the bid but later wrote to the Defence Ministry with a proposal to set up a base in India. The IAFs plan to upgrade the AN 32 aircraft ran into trouble due to Ukraines deteriorating relations with the Russia. It was hoped that if an joint venture was implemented, problems with the upgrade could be resolved.

The upgrade of the aircraft would include air collision avoidance system, ground proximity warning system, satellite navigation system, distance-measuring equipment and a new radar among others.

Reliance Defence Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. (an Infrastructure arm of the Reliance Group). The company has industrial licenses for the full spectrum of military platforms and is the fastest emerging private sector enterprise in the development, manufacture and supply of Defence aerospace, land and naval platforms and equipment.

Reliance Group, led by Chairman Shri Anil D. Ambani, is among Indias top five business houses, with a leadership position in telecommunications, power, infrastructure, financial services, media and entertainment. The Group has over 250 million customers, serving 1 in every 5 Indians, and over 8 million shareholders, amongst the largest shareholder families in the world. The net worth of the Group is Rs.100,000 crore (US $ 16 billion), and the total asset base is Rs.267,000 crore (US $ 43 billion). It is an equal opportunity employer with 100,000 strong, highly competent workforce comprising different nationalities.



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