BSF set to buy transport aircraft

Aiming to reduce its dependence on the Air Force to airlift supplies and personnel to forward areas, the Border Security Force (BSF) is in the final stages of purchasing medium transport aircraft that will be able to land at difficult airfields and unprepared surfaces.

Extensive trials were carried out at various airbases in North India last year and the Ministry of Home Affairs in close to taking a decision which aircraft will meet its requirements.

While BSF initially wants to procure two aircraft to meet needs of its air wing, orders could go up in the future as the airlift obligations of the paramilitary force increases in coming years.

At present, a bulk of the airlift needs of the BSF is carried out by the IAF. The BSF's air wing is also being strengthened to meet requirements of paramilitary forces engaged in fighting the Naxalites in central parts of the country.

BSF has evaluated two aircraft for the contract the C 27 J Spartan manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica and the EADS CASA C 295.

"We took part in several trials in the north last year that were carried out by an Air Force team. The trials concluded in July and were followed by visits of the evaluating team to our manufacturing facilities. We are now waiting for a decision on the contract," said Roberto Leva, country director of Alenia Aeronautica.

Interestingly, while a decision on the matter would shortly be taken by the home ministry, the two aircraft competing for the BSF contract are also the only contenders for a possible tender for 16 medium lift aircraft that are required by IAF.

Sources said the C 27 J Spartan and the EADS CASA C 295 have also responded to a request for information (RFI) that was issued by the IAF in December last year.

IAF is looking for a tactical medium lift aircraft to take on some missions currently being carried out by the ageing fleet of An 32 aircraft. While responses have been given to the RFI and detailed presentations made to IAF, manufacturers are now awaiting a formal tender by the defence ministry.

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