Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The strategic MTA project revived

The strategic MTA project revived 

 HAL and UAC Revive the Strategic Jointly Developed MTA Project

      In 2009, India and Russia signed an agreement to jointly develop a aircraft that would boost the capabilities of the IAF and also replace the aging An-32 fleet of the IAF which for then was the mainstay medium airlift and transport aircraft of the Indian Air force.  India fielded its trusted HAL for the program which would act as the lead partner and the principal integrator.

     Russia fielded its United Aircraft Company (UAC) which with HAL would set up a subsidiary company for the project. The Program is estimated to cost around US $600 million and the outcome would be a very versatile medium lift aircraft that could be used by the Indian and Russian forces. India initially ordered 45 aircraft and Russian forces placed an order for around 105 aircraft.

       The aircraft will be a derivative of the Iluyshin-214, MTAL was charged with designing the aircraft from the scratch.  India signed an MOU with MTAL for the design process of the project and appointed around 40 Indian engineers to work with UAC engineers to produce a very versatile aircraft. The design is also believed to be developed into a civilian variant in the future. The aircraft design has taken wings with India and Russia finally deciding to power the aircraft with the Russian developed PS-90 with turbofan engine. The aircraft can support a maximum payload of around 20 tonne and will enjoy a operational range of 2500 km.


        The preliminary design work for the project has already been started in Moscow by HAL and UAC. India had shown its displeasure with the PD 14 engines and had requested for a more powerful engine. The PD 14 was powerful and extremely efficient in sea level conditions but as the altitude went up the performance of the aircraft was reduced greatly. With India being landlocked by the Himalayas, the aircraft was expected to operate at FOB’s which are one of the highest operational airbases. India finally selected the PS 90 owing to its performance track records.

      The MTA is a versatile platform and can be used in for transporting cargo and troops at extremely less turnaround time. The aircraft can also be used as a medievac platform thus boosting the capabilities of the IAF. The aircraft can also be refueled mid-air thereby boosting the operational radius of the aircraft. The aircraft is capable of supporting about 90 fully battle ready forces and also be used as para drop platform which is instrumental for any special force operations.

     The aircraft can attain speeds up to 800 kmph and can fly at altitudes around 45000 ft thus avoiding enemy air-defense system. Under Medivac missions the MTA can be reconfigured with 58 stretchers or beds to evacuate wounded soldiers. The aircraft can also perform STOL missions thus can serve right from the center of the battlefield.

       With the aircraft capable of lifting around 20 tonne it can easily hoist and transport infantry combat vehicles and troop support vehicles. The vehicles can also be para dropped thanks to the unique ramp configuration planned for the MTA. The aircraft is being powered by an turbofan engine, it has to be seen how well the aircraft can perform STOL missions against the conventional rotor powered jets. At the same time the turbofan engines are a major boost to the altitude and the speed of the aircraft.

       If HAL and UAC sticks to the planned schedule than the aircraft is expected to enter the trial phase by 2017. After the completion of tests in Russia the aircraft will be handed over to HAL for further testing in Indian conditions and the aircraft is slated to enter the forces by 2018. HAL will be manufacturing this aircraft at its Kanpur facility.

      With a change of guard at UAC the project is on the move with the new CEO making holding multiple talks with HAL officials to expedite the design process. HAL and UAC delegation met in the ongoing Paris air show and discussed about measures to expedite the process and iterated that the project was running on schedule and the first aircraft is expected to enter service by 2018 and the first prototype will take to skies by 2016. 

     HAL on the other hand is also under pressure to deliver with Tata and Airbus also pitching in C-295 into the Indian forces. The MTA project is a major boost to the dipping capabilities of the IAF and is sure to boost the response of India for any misadventures along the borders in the least possible time.

Editor Karthik Kakoor

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