A C-130J transport aircraft, India’s first acquisition from the US through the Foreign Military Sales route in decades, arrived at its new home at Hindon airbase outside the capital ahead of its formal induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) Saturday.
However, the C-130J Super Hercules airlifter that IAF will operate for Indian armed forces’ special operations, will not be the same as the US Air Force’s (USAF) in view of India not having signed a crucial communication interoperability agreement with the US, an official of Lockheed Martin, the aircraft manufacturer, said here Friday.
The C-130J, expected to enhance Indian special forces’ reach for their specialist operations behind enemy lines, was flown by an IAF crew into India from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility at Marietta in Georgia, US.
India had signed a $950 million contract for six C-130Js in 2008. The other five aircraft in this current order are scheduled for delivery to the IAF one after the other by the end of this year.
“The first C-130J for the IAF has arrived at its home base last (Thursday) evening after flying through Canada, Europe and West Asia,” Lockheed Martin’s vice president (business development) Orville Prins said here.
“It was very clear that Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) not being signed will affect certain things. That said, we have worked with the IAF to ensure that the capability that they required on the aircraft for their mission needs have been fully met. It it ultimately their choice on what they wanted,” Prins said.
He said every country – 11 of them – operating the C-130 platform had different requirements and hence the aircraft supplied to each of these nations would be different in some way or the other.
“Not all C-130Js are the same. Our production facility’s assembly line has the capability to handle the aircraft for different configurations as per the requirements of the purchasing country. We have tailored the configuration of the C-130J to meet the IAF’s requirements,” Prins said, adding the additional capabilities sought by the IAF had been integrated successfully on the six platforms.
The four-engine aircraft, powered by the Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 turboprop, has a maximum cruise speed of 355 knots or 660 kmph. The maximum takeoff weight if 75,390 kg and it can carry a maximum payload of 21,770 kg.
The aircraft is required by the Indian armed forces to airlift about 92 paratroopers for special operations, though the platform has a multi-mission capability, including cargo lifting and medical evacuation.
The induction ceremony will be witnessed by Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer and USAF’s Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz.
Prins said Lockheed Martin was actively supporting the IAF’s needs for another six C-130Js as a follow-on order. This was provided in the original contract and is currently under consideration of the air force.
The USAF, which is executing the government-to-government deal, had taken possession of the first C-130J at a ceremony at Marietta near Atlanta Dec 16 last year and handed it to the IAF that very day.
Though the US is supplying the six aircraft under its Foreign Military Sales route, Lockheed Martin will execute an offsets commitment under which 30 percent of $950 million – about $285 million – will be reinvested in the Indian defence industry.
The USAF is training nine batches of IAF crew of 18 pilots, nine loadmasters and nine combat system operators to fly and operate the aircraft. Five of these batches would complete their training this month.
The IAF, on its part, has modernized its Hindon air base by extending the runway and establishing state-of-the-art hangars, servicing and operations facilities for the C-130J aircraft.
The aircraft will be able to perform precision low-level flying, air drops and landing in blackout conditions. Special features are included to ensure aircraft survivability in a hostile air defence environment.