India will soon release a request for proposals (RFP) for 56 cargo aircraft for its air force to replace its aging fleet of Avros, according to a defense ministry official.

The final approval for expanding the cargo fleet of the Indian air force (IAF) at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion was given at a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Council headed by Defense Minister A.K. Antony here July 23.

The RFP, “to be issued shortly by the defense ministry, will make it clear to foreign players that they will have to select an Indian partner for this project,” he says.

Under the deal, the first 16 aircraft will be directly procured from the foreign vendor, which will then have to partner with an Indian firm that will manufacture the remaining 40. Out of those 40 aircraft, 16 must have 30% indigenous components, while 24 must have 60% locally procured parts.

The first aircraft is expected to be delivered in the next four to six years after an official agreement is signed, the official says.

State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is unlikely to participate in the project because it is busy with the licensed production of Su-30MKI fighters and upgrades of the Mirage, MIG-29 and Jaguar aircraft for the IAF, the official says.

HAL will also be involved in the licensed production of Multi Medium Range Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), once the deal is signed with France’s Dassault for 126 jets.

The cargo aircraft will augment IAF’s cargo fleet by replacing its vintage Avro HS-748 aircraft that were inducted during the 1960s and used for transporting men and material.

Experts feel the plan will boost manufacturing of transport aircraft in the country and bring in new business opportunities for Indian private players in the aviation market.