C295 and the MPA requirement

SHAH ALAM: IN my recent reports on the MPA requirement, I stated that the CN235 is probably the favourite to win the programme if the funding goes ahead for RMK11. But it appears that the CN235 may not be able to take part at all as the Airbus Defence and Space C295 may take precedent over the IPTN built aircraft.

At the recent Airbus DS TMB briefing, I asked whether both the CN235 and C295 will compete for the same MPA programme (I did not mentioned Malaysia as the programme has yet to be officially announced). The answer from Airbus DS Light & Medium, ISR and UAS Marketing Director Fernando Cirla was that the C295 will take precedent above the CN235. I got a more definitive answer from an Airbus DS higher-up later that night but since that conversation was officially off-the-record, I will leave it at that.

An Airbus C295 medium transport aircraft undergoing tests at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain.
An Airbus C295 medium transport aircraft undergoing tests at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain.

In my post on RMK11, I wrote that “During his winding-up speech for RMK11 at Parliament on June 15, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein stated that among others, the Royal Malaysian Air Force will procuring MPA in phases. It was the only new asset for RMAF which he had stated during the speech.

Industry sources have since informed Malaysian Defence that 4 MPA will be procured. However there was no indication the type of MPA to be selected. I am assuming that the most likely candidate will be the CN-235 MPA that was displayed during LIMA 2015 by PT Dirgantra of Indonesia. The aircraft was fitted with the Thales AMASCOS.”

CN235 MPA of TNI-AL displayed at LIMA 2015.
CN235 MPA of TNI-AL displayed at LIMA 2015.

With the latest development however, it appears those plans may not work out after all. It must be noted that the CN-235 was developed together between CASA of Spain and Nurtanio of Indonesia hence the CN designation. Both companies have now evolved into Airbus DS and PT Dirgantara, respectively.

An Airbus C295W undergoing tests at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain.
An Airbus C295W undergoing tests at Airbus DS facility at Seville, Spain.

And unlike its older brother, the bigger C295 was developed solely by CASA before it was folded into Airbus DS (though the Spain government still hold the majority in CASA which in turn now hold shares in Airbus DS and probably Airbus Group as well).

At the briefing it was obvious that Airbus DS has high hopes for the C295 hence its preference over the CN-235.

Virtues of the C295
Virtues of the C295

With its bigger airframe, the C295 has a higher endurance and larger payload for a variety of taskings (it has 50 per cent more payload than the CN235). The higher endurance is notable especially for low level flights which may be needed for the maritime patrol role.

RMAF CN235 M44-05. TUDM picture.
RMAF CN235 M44-05. TUDM picture.

However for RMAF to choose the C295 over the CN235 its not that simple. The engines are different, the C295 uses PW127G turboprop engine while the RMAF’s seven 235s are equipped with the GE CT7-9C. The avionics are different of course. The cost of the C295 is also likely to be more expensive than the CN235, a major factor that needs to be considered.

The roles for the C295
The roles for the C295

As seen from the graphic above, the C295 could also be used for AAR refueling using a roll-on-roll of system. The system is being qualified on the aircraft as of now but it is expected to be cleared for use by next year.

Versatile MPA
Versatile MPA

In theory, all of the roles of the C295 also apply to the CN235 but due its lower payload and endurance, it can carry less of the items of the larger variant.

— Malaysian Defence

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