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IAF workhorse AN-32 gets a fuel that’s green and creates jobs for tribals

The IAF will now run its AN-32 transport aircraft on a blended bio-fuel partly derived from trees. It plans to widen the experiment over the next two years.

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New Delhi: The workhorse of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Russian-made AN-32 transport aircraft, has gone green. On Friday, the fleet of AN-32 was formally certified to fly on a blended bio-jet fuel, which will be 10 per cent tree-derived and 90 per cent conventional aviation fuel.

The approval certificate for its use on AN-32 was received at the aero-engine test facilities, Chandigarh, by Air Commodore Sanjiv Ghuratia, the Air Officer Commanding of 3 Base Repair Depot (BRD), from P. Jayapal, chief executive of the military aviation certification body Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), the IAF said in a statement Friday.

“This is a huge step in promoting the ‘Make in India’ mission as this bio-fuel would be produced from Tree Borne Oils (TBOs) sourced from tribal areas and farmers, augmenting their income substantially,” the statement added.

The shift is also meant to curb India’s dependence on crude imports, besides reducing the IAF’s carbon footprint.

Also read: Jatropha plant fuel from Chhattisgarh to power Indian military aircraft

An indigenous breakthrough

The bio-jet fuel technology driving the IAF shift was first developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), which falls under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in 2009 and tested at several academic research labs between 2011 and 2013.

It, however, couldn’t be certified for commercial use on aircraft at the time due to a lack of test facilities in the civil aviation sector.

However, the tests gathered pace last year.

In December 2018, the IAF first flew an AN-32 on a bio-fuel that was a blend of Jatropha oil ad aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

Wing Commander A. Shrivastava, a research fellow at the thinktank Centre for Air Power Studies, wrote in a subsequent article that, with the flight, India had joined a league of select nations to have “developed, tested and certified a single-step HRJ(hydro-processed renewable jet) process to convert non-edible oil into biofuel for use on military aircraft”.

He estimated that the IAF would require over 3,000 kilo litres of the blended bio-fuel just for operating the AN-32 fleet alone.

At the Republic Day parade this year, too, the IAF flew an AN-32 aircraft running on the bio-fuel.

It was last year that Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had announced the IAF’s intention to permit the use of all its resources for testing and certifying the indigenous fuel.

The IAF is now reportedly looking to test the blended bio-fuel on its entire fleet of helicopters, transport aircraft and fighter jets over the next two years.

Also read: Untold heroism story: How IAF stayed up on eve of Air Force Day to save journalist’s life


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  1. Antonov AN-32, is a Soviet built workhorse for Indian Airforce. Those who are in the Military service would have had the pleasure of traveling in this crude, compared to the civil jetliner, transport aircraft. While working at the DRDO lab Centre for Military Airworthinesd and Certification (CEMILAC), I had several occasions to travel in AN-32 as well Ilyushin IL-76, Avro HS-748 and Dornier. Those were the days when I was not eligible to travel by civil Air due to my lower basic pay. I used to hitch-hike and hopon-hopoff military aircraft for my official trips to AF stations. These rugged aircraft are the lifelines of our soldiers on the mountains, deserts and glaciers

    Speaking about CEMILAC, it has a unit specially for certifying Fuels, Oils and Lubricants at Bengaluru in addition to several other units spread across India to certify aircraft, engine, missile and armaments. I had an occasion to work on certifying an indigenous lubricant developed at Mysuru for engines

    Now it is heartening to note that my erstwhile DRDO colleagues have certified green fuel for AN-32, which also meet certain societal obligations. It is a long uncherished dream yet unfulfilled for India to have own transport aircraft to replace ageing AN-32s and IL-76s.

  2. When did just 10% blend attain the status of “Green fuel”? Also carbon footprint is determined based on the CO2 released. It doesn’t matter if you burn ATF or biofuel. Many studies in the west have shown that blending biofuels with petrol tends to harm old internal combustion engines. So without proper equipment, it is doing more harm than good. Also the calorific value of biofuel is way below the calorific value of ATF. Simply said, you need more biofuel to cover the same distance a lesser amount of pure ATF would take. So the only benefits are tribal financial growth and foreign exchange savings.

  3. It is an excellent move for using ten percent biofuel along with conventional fuel in Antho Nova (AN-32) aircraft, which is being used as logistic support and transportation of army personnel across country including adverse environmental vagaries i.e. extremes of hot conditions at Deserts to extremes cold cold conditions high to extreme altitudes in esatern to western Himalays. These factors may influece the functioning on biofuel mixed oil. So in this connection, it is suggested that the makers of AN-32 in Russia are duly consulted and after that its various test drives under those conditions be conducted critically to avoid any types of mishappening in future.

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