The CASA/IPTN CN-235 is a medium-range twin-engined transport aircraft that was jointly developed by CASA of Spain and Indonesian manufacturer IPTN. It is operated as both a regional airliner and military transport; its primary military roles include air transport and aerial surveillance.
|A CASA CN-235 of the Maritime Safety and Rescue Society|
|Role||Transport aircraft / maritime patrol aircraft|
|National origin||Spain / Indonesia|
|First flight||11 November 1983|
|Introduction||1 March 1988|
|Primary users||Turkish Air Force|
French Air and Space Force
Indonesian Air Force
Royal Malaysian Air Force
|Number built||354 ( CASA 285  + IPTN 69  )|
|Variants||EADS HC-144 Ocean Sentry|
|Developed into||EADS CASA C-295 |
Indonesian Aerospace N-245
Development of the CN-235 formally commenced in 1980 following the formation of the Airtech International joint venture on 17 October 1979. Its existence was publicly unveiled at the 1981 Paris Airshow. On 11 November 1983, the prototype CN-235 conducted its maiden flight; the first production aircraft followed on 19 August 1986. On 1 March 1988, the aircraft was put into regular service. Early on, the production of each aircraft was divided, 65% being performed by IPTN while the remainder was performed by CASA. The vast majority of CN-235s have been produced for military customers, several airlines have opted to buy limited numbers for regional services as well. In addition to the standard aircraft, specialised CN-235s have been configured into armed gunships and maritime patrol aircraft.
While both the development and early production of the CN-235 had been performed as a joint effort, the partnership arrangement between CASA and IPTN was only applicable to the Series 10 and Series 100/110 aircraft. Some of the later versions of the CN-235 have been developed by each company independently of the other's efforts. Accordingly, both companies have produced their own derivatives of the aircraft, such as the stretched EADS CASA C-295 and the passenger-orientated Indonesian Aerospace N-245. Over 230 of all versions of CN-235 are in service, and the type has reportedly accumulated more than 500,000 flight hours. Its largest user is Turkey, which operates 59 aircraft.
The CN-235 has been conceived of during the late 1970s as a twin-turboprop powered transport capable of accommodating up to 35 passengers or various military payloads. It had been observed that there was a growing global market for such transports, while there was also a need in the domestic market. The Spanish aerospace company Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) was keen to seek out international collaboration to develop this concept into a working programme, and promptly approach the newly formed Indonesian company IPTN (later known as Indonesian Aerospace or PT. Dirgantara Indonesia). The company was offered an equal share in the venture along with technology transfer opportunities from CASA, and was presented as being mutually beneficial from an economic standpoint. Coincidentally, IPTN had been independently looking into possible configurations for such an aircraft prior to CASA's approach.
The presented terms being agreeable, CASA and IPTN quickly formalised the programme as a joint venture initiative; on 17 October 1979, they formed Airtech International to design, develop, manufacture, and market the new aircraft. Management comprised senior members of both companies, such as Airtech's president also being the president of IPTN, while its vice president was also the president of CASA. During November 1979, the first technical team visit from IPTN was made to CASA's Madrid facilities, while the first joint meeting was held in Bandung two months later. During the first half of 1980, various configurations were studied, including a stretched derivative of the CASA C-212 Aviocar, multiple clean-sheet wide-body aircraft with rectangular and circular-shaped fuselages.
The selected configuration for the aircraft featured a relatively wide fuselage for its size, complete with a rear-facing ramp suitable for all-purpose transport duties. Its main cabin facilitated a four-abreast single-aisle seating arrangement, which could accommodate up to 44 passengers in the most dense seating configuration. The design philosophy of "a big aircraft in a small plane" was practiced, leading to be equipped to suit various situations and operating conditions present in both industrialised and developing countries. This led to the pursuit of performance attributes such as good accessibility for cargo transportation, the quick and convenient conversion between cargo and passenger transport operations, along with readiness to be equipped to perform other roles such as aerial firefighting, cropdusting, and other niche roles. Many features were specifically pursued as to ensure the aircraft's value to the Indonesian market and to capture sufficient early orders there that it would allow for economies of scale to make the aircraft highly cost-competitive on the international market.
During January 1980, preliminary design work commenced. From 1980 to 1983, the second phase of development took place, starting with the detailed design work, tools manufacturing, component production, final assembly, and cumulating in the completion of initial prototypes. The project was publicly debuted at the 1981 Paris Airshow. In addition to the display of a mock-up, sales contracts were signed and a memorandum of understanding was signed between Airtech and General Electric for the aircraft to be powered by the latter's General Electric CT7 turboprop engine.
On 10 September 1983, the first pair of prototypes were officially rolled out simultaneously at Getafe and Bandung in ceremonies attended by both King Carlos I of Spain and President Suharto of Indonesia. On 11 November 1983, the first CASA-built prototype performed its maiden flight; on 30 December 1983, the first IPTN-built prototype made its first flight. Unusually, early testing had involved only minimal use of windtunnels, while it was also decided to only construct a pair of prototypes, decisions that constrained and protracted the later flight testing process. New testing facilities in Indonesia were established with the assistance of the German Aerospace Center. Amongst other aspects, the CN-235 proved to have easy handling characteristics. Extensive weight and drag-minimisation efforts were undertaken, one consequence of which was that the subsequent production aircraft were reportedly 10% lighter than the prototypes.
The third phase of development was to secure certification and to conduct the aircraft's first delivery to customers. In support of this effort, static and fatigue testing was conducted by the Serpong Laboratory for Structural Testing. By September 1984, orders for several dozen aircraft had been secured at a reported unit cost of $6m; many of these early orders for the type had originated from local customers within the two partner company's home nations.
Certification from both the Spanish and Indonesian authorities was received on 20 June 1986; the first flight of a production-standard aircraft was conducted on 19 August 1986. Type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was granted on 3 December 1986, permitting the CN-235 to be operated in North America. The first deliveries to customers took place during 1987. On 1 March 1988, the CN-235 officially entered service.
By May 1989, there were 133 firm orders for the CN-235, 74 had been placed by military operators while 59 were attributed to civil operators; of these, 85 had been ordered by Indonesian customers while 22 were attributable to Spanish customers alone, and the remainder to international customers. In comparison to international competitors, such as the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and the ATR 42, it was a slightly slower aircraft but had a relatively wide body, making it favourable for moving containerised cargos and even jet engines, a task traditionally performed by much larger aircraft.
As per the early production arrangements, roughly 65% of each aircraft was produced in Bandung, while 35% was manufactured in Getafe; this workshare arrangement was the case regardless of whether rollout occurred in Spain or Indonesia. While the airframe was fully produced locally by IPTN, the engines, control and communication systems were all produced in either Europe or the United States. The lower wages present in Indonesia have been a key factor in enabling the CN-235 to be economically produced at its relatively low purchase price.
Both CASA and IPTN were keen to further develop the CN-235, the original prototypes were quickly adapted to serve as flying test beds to support these efforts. By 1992, multiple versions had already been developed, and more were underway. These were often produced in response to specific customer requirements, such as to perform maritime reconnaissance. Development of the initial versions had been carried out jointly by the two companies. Perhaps the most significant derivative of the aircraft was launched in 1995 by CASA in the form of a stretched CN-235. This aircraft would be produced as the C-295.
Indonesia has sought greater autonomy from Airbus (whom CASA has been integrated into) in the CN-235 manufacturing process; the Indonesian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made this objective a part of the offset conditions should the Airbus A400M Atlas strategic transport aircraft be procured for the Indonesian Air Force.
Amongst the first customers for the CN-235 was the French Air and Space Force, which had ordered an initial eight aircraft by May 1989. In April 2010, Hervé Morin, French Minister of Defence, announced the order of eight CN-235-300s from Spain. By 2015, the service had expanded its fleet to 27 aircraft. During mid-2020, a French CN-235 was amongst those assets deployed to Mauritius to assist in pollution control efforts after the MV Wakashio oil spill.
Several sizable early orders from the Indonesian armed forces made it the largest customer for the CN-235 early on. By May 1989, the Indonesian Air Force alone had ordered 32 aircraft while the Indonesian Navy had ordered 18 CN-235s, six of which in a maritime surveillance configuration. During December 2009, the Indonesian Navy ordered its first batch of three CN-235 MPAs; the first of these aircraft, based at Juanda Naval base in Surabaya, East Java, were declared operational in October 2013. In November 2016, the Indonesian Air Force also commenced operations with the latest generation of CN-235 MPAs, equipped with winglets and new electronic support apparatus.
The Spanish armed forces also placed modest early orders for the type, by May 1989, two VIP-configured CN-235s had been ordered by the Spanish Air Force. In 2000, the Future Medium Transport Aircraft II (FATAM II) program was launched, under which a batch of nine C-295s was ordered for the Spanish Air Force to take the place of eight CN-235s that were converted from a general transport configuration into maritime patrol and search-and-rescue aircraft, while between four and six CN-235s were assigned to training operations, their reassignment having noticeably depleted the service's medium transport fleet. In December 2007, Spain ordered a pair of CN-235 MPA for the Guardia Civil, making it the first fixed-wing aircraft to be operated by the agency.
During the early 1990s, the Irish Air Corps became interested in the type, initially opting to lease a single aircraft directly from CASA in 1992. Two years later, a pair of CN-235s configured for maritime surveillance operations were delivered to the Air Corps. During 2021, amid the Fall of Kabul and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, one of the CN-235s was flown to the nation to assist with the evacuation. In 2022, Irish CN-235s have been deployed to provide humanitarian aid to, as well as evacuate wounded civilians from, Ukraine.
In December 2002, the Colombian Navy ordered two CN-235 configured for maritime patrol and anti-drug trafficking missions. During July 2010, a third MPA-configured aircraft was delivered. In April 2012, Colombia awarded a contract to Telephonics to replace the original radars of the two older CN-235s with the APS-143 OceanEye marine surveillance Radar.
In April 2005, Venezuela ordered two CN-235 maritime surveillance aircraft along with ten transport planes. However, during the following year, the transaction was halted due to the refusal of the United States government to allow the transfer of what they deemed to be US technology in the aircraft's avionics.
In January 2006, Thailand came to a tentative bartering arrangement with Indonesian Aerospace for ten aircraft, six of which were for the Ministry of Defence and the remaining four for the Ministry of Agriculture. An additional aircraft was ordered on 19 September 2014.
During July 2008, the Mexican Navy announced that it would purchase six CN-235s. In November 2011, the first aircraft was accepted by the service; it was configured to conduct search and rescue, disaster relief, and drug interdiction missions. During May 2012, the final of four CN-235 MPAs was delivered to the Mexican Navy.
In December 2008, South Korea announced that Indonesian Aerospace's bid had triumphed over four rival submissions, and thus it would order four CN-235-110 MPAs to equip the South Korean Coast Guard with; these aircraft, delivered in 2011, had a reported per unit cost of $23 million.
On behalf of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, a light gunship version of the CN-235 was developed; it was introduced to service in May 2014. Collaborators in the project included the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau of Jordan, and the U.S. defense company Orbital ATK.
Turkey has become the largest operator of the CN-235, by October 1998, it already had placed cumulative orders for 52 transport-configured aircraft, and would order an additional nine CN-235 MPAs by the end of the year. During the 2000s, a modification programme was undertaken to equip 19 Turkish Navy and coastguard aircraft with new maritime surveillance equipment supplied mainly by Thales. Throughout the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, CN-235 MPAs of the Turkish Navy heavily patrolled the Black Sea, these have repeatedly detected sea mines and aided in de-mining efforts.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force has operated a fleet of CN-235 transports. During early 2020, it was announced that several Malaysian aircraft would be converted into a maritime surveillance configuration using financial assistance from the United States. On 17 June 2022, the Royal Malaysian Air Force receive the first of three such modified CN235-220M MSA as part of the Malaysian Maritime Security Initiative program.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Senegalese Air Force acquired two CN-235s at a reported cost of $13 million. In 2013, the service declared it planned to buy two more aircraft for VIP and cargo duties, and that it was also interested in the MPA version as well. During 2018, Senegal ordered two MPA-configured CN-235s, the first of which was received in 2021.
Although the CN-235 has been initially designed as a military transport, it has also been offered to civil operators, usually as a commercial airliner. It has not achieved substantial sales in this role compared to competing 50-seat commuter aircraft such as the Fokker 50, ATR 42 and De Havilland Canada DHC-8. Iberia LAE, Spain's flag carrier, emerged as an early customer, opting to purchase four CN-235s from CASA to serve on its regional routes. It, and its subsidiaries Binter Canarias and Binter Mediterraneo, operated the type between 1989 and 1997, opting to procure several larger ATR 72s to replace it.
Numerous Indonesian operators had placed early orders for the CN-235; by 1992, there were internal routes served by the type between most of the major cities in the country. The Indonesian operator Merpati Nusantara Airlines emerged as the largest civilian operator of the CN-235, at one point having 15 examples in its fleet alone. In April 1995, the company decided to proceed with a leasing arrangement to operate additional aircraft.
During 1992, Aerolíneas Argentinas, which was a subsidiary of Iberia at that time, ordered a pair of CN-235s to be operated by its own subsidiary, Austral. In August 2006, it was reported that several CASA CN-235-10 were in service with African airlines, including two operated by Safair and one with Tiko Air. Around 2007, Asian Spirit operated a lone CN-235-220 in the Philippines.
During 2015, Indonesian Aerospace announced that they were in the early stages of developing a new variant of the CN-235, the N-245, which has been specifically designed to perform civil operations and is able to carry up to 60 passengers. Alternatively also referred to as the CN-235NG, this variant is planned to be fully launched following the completion of the Indonesian Aerospace N-219 project, at one point, it was expected to be fully certified sometime in 2019. A further derivative has been envisioned, referred to as the N-270, it is a stretched version of the N-245 and is planned to be able to carry up to 70–90 passengers; the original timeframe for development was set between 2019 and 2024.
On 11 February 2013, a CN-235 crashed into a forest 45 km south of Monrovia, Liberia, 8 km to Roberts International Airport, killing 11 people amongst them Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, Guinea army chief.
On 26 February 2016, a CN-235 operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force crashed in a swamp in Kuala Selangor. Although there were no casualties amongst the occupants, a local fisherman drowned during the rescue effort.
Data from Airbus Military
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era