Wednesday, June 01, 2022

HAL to convert civilian aircraft into refuelling tankers

New Delhi: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will convert six Boeing-767 civilian aircraft into mid-air refuellers for the Indian Air Force (IAF), for which it has entered into an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in April. The IAF has been looking to procure new mid-air refuellers for sometime.

“Six Boeing-767s will be converted from civil to military certification. HAL will float a global tender to purchase second hand B-767s from the market,” an official source said. The overall process is expected to take at least three to four years, the official stated.

In addition, HAL is also looking at converting Boeing-747s of Air India for dedicated cargo role. The aircraft are available with Air India and have been recently pulled out from civilian role as they completed 20 years. The feasibility of it is being ascertained, the official stated.

IAI has the prior expertise of undertaking such conversion and HAL too had worked closely with IAI earlier on it, so this project can be undertaken and will fulfil a crucial requirement of the IAF, another official said.

The IAF presently has six Russian IL-78 midair refuellers and has been, for sometime, looking to procure six new aircraft, but the deal has been repeatedly delayed. It has been looking to re-issue the tender but the financial crunch had made the IAF rethink the acquisition. To meet requirements in the interim, the IAF has been looking at leasing some mid-air refuellers, an option introduced in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.

Mid-air refuelling significantly enhances the range and payload of fighter jets. It also allows the aircraft to stay in the air much beyond their normal limits allowing better exploitation of the platform’s capabilities.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, IAF officials had stated that broadly wet lease of platforms could be used for peacetime use and dry leasing to cater for operational requirements. In wet lease the platforms have to be maintained by the company supplying them, be it the original equipment manufacturer or the aggregator.

01/06/22 Dinakar Peri/The Hindu

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