India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has entered into an MoU with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to convert pre-owned civil passenger aircraft to Multi Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) aircraft in India. HAL stated in a press release that ‘the scope of MoU also covers “passenger to freighter aircraft” conversion’. The aircraft conversion sector is one of the strategic diversification avenues identified by HAL.
IAI confirmed to Overt Defense that the agreement is for the Boeing 767 aircraft. These will be offered for the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has a long standing requirement for new refueling aircraft. IAI added that:
“In addition to the Indian Air Force requirement, this MoU is a partnership between IAI and the local Indian defense ecosystem and will expand cooperation with the local industry.”
The Print reported that at least six aircraft are planned to be converted. It is unclear where the aircraft will be sourced from. Air India has been the main source for IAF’s recent conversion requirements. Ex-Air India Airbus A319/320 aircraft are currently being modified as AWACS aircraft and as a flight test bed for DRDO. DRDO is also working on A319 based SIGINT aircraft. However, Air India does not operate 767 aircraft.
The IAF currently operates six Il-78 tankers, but the fleet has faced various serviceability and operational issues. IAF had been in talks with Airbus for purchasing about six A330 MRTT. Recently, IAF has also reportedly considered leasing MRTT aircraft. Acquisition of converted B767s by IAF would be a blow to Airbus. Airbus declined to comment on the situation, noting they do not comment ‘on ongoing campaigns or discussions it might have with customers’. Boeing also declined to comment, indicating that it is between HAL, IAI and the IAF.
The IAI-developed B767 MMTT aircraft includes a special cargo door and built-in cargo pallet capabilities. Passenger seats and consoles can be rapidly installed or removed. The aircraft is configured simultaneously for air refueling, cargo, VIP, passengers and ISR systems as desired by the user. A 767 MMTT is in service with the Colombian Air Force. The Boeing 767 has been used for aerial refueling by other nations as well. Italy and Japan operate KC-767 aircraft. The US and Japan operate the KC-46, which is based on the 767. The KC-46 has also been ordered by Israel.