India and Russia have given the green light to their Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) joint venture, United Aircraft said following a signing ceremony in New Delhi.
"A contract was signed by the client, the joint Indian-Russian MTAL venture, and the contractors, Hindustan Aeronautics and United Aircraft Corporation Transport Planes," the Russian company announced on 12 October.
The Medium Transport Aircraft was on show in model form at Aero India 2011
The signing gives an official start to the long-planned project, which Indian politicians had said could be scrapped if it was delayed any further.
Indian daily The Hindu had reported that defence minister A K Antony had expressed concerns, and cited other sources saying a further slippage would be advantageous to rival aircraft such as Embraer's KC-390 transport/tanker.
"A long and complex preparatory phase in every sense has been completed for the project, which involves joint financing and workshare, and creation from scratch of a new plane for the air forces of both nations," says United Aircraft. A large group of Indian aerospace engineers will arrive in Moscow in the near future to start work on the programme, it adds.
The MTA will be a twin-engined transport with a maximum take-off weight of 65t, including an 18-20t payload, a 30m (98ft) wingspan, and a top speed of 434kt (800km/h). The aircraft is designed to replace the Antonov An-32 and Hawker Siddeley HS 748 in Indian service, and the An-26 and An-30 for Russia.
Earlier this year, United Aircraft president Mikhail Pogosyan told Flightglobal he expects New Delhi to eventually acquire 45 of the new type, with Moscow to order 100 and export customers to take up to another 60.