The forward, aft and center fuselage and the wing assembly of the first C-17 of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were assembled together at Boeing’s Long Beach facility, today.
The heavy lifter is the first of ten aircraft ordered by the IAF in a USD 4.116 billion order and is expected to be delivered to India by June next year.
This comes at a time when deliveries of the aircraft to the US Air Force (USAF) are moving towards completion. Boeing is to be given a USD 500 million contract for post-production of the aircraft to ensure storage of the assembly line for easy restart when, if the US Air Force requires sustainment for large spares and infrastructure.
Mark Kronenberg, Vice President, International Business Development at Boeing Defense Space and Security, told Indian media at Washington DC last week that the IAF would have a window of opportunity until the end of 2014 to decide on further orders of the aircraft before the assembly line was closed, unless the company received other orders before that.
As things stand now, the C-17 line will likely close by the third quarter or 2014.
India had placed the order for the ten aircraft in June, 2011. This, first aircraft will be delivered by January, 2013 and should be fully operational with the IAF by May 2013.
The C-17 can take-off from an airfield around 2 kilometers with a payload of more than 73 tons, fly 4,500 kilometers and land on an airfield less than a kilometer long, or carry a load of 45 tons and fly 7,400 kilometers.
The ramp alone can carry around 18 tons. The aircraft can transport 102 paratroopers or 188 seated passengers. In an aero-medical configuration, the aircraft has nine litters, with provision for an additional 27 litters, if required.
The aircraft can reverse on its own and park itself, and is also capable of being loaded and unloaded without the aircraft being required to kneel.
The IAF’s C-17 aircraft will be slightly different from the USAF configuration, with possibly different communications components.
Curiously, the C-17 will be equipped with a refueling system that is incompatible with the existing IAF IL-78 refuelers.
It can also fit a Chinook (two, with the blades disassembled), or two Apache helicopters, or three Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) with blades removed.
Some 2,300 people work on each aircraft at the Long Beach facility