New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will receive the first two C-130J special operations aircraft from the United States in February 2011 and the remaining four ordered by the end of the year.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik told India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) in an interview that the IAF was giving equal importance to the acquisition of combat and transport aircraft as part of the "transformation process" now underway and that the infrastructure to operate the
C-130Js from the Hindon airbase near the Indian capital was nearing completion.
The IAF and the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) had signed an agreement with the US Air Force (USAF) and Department of Defense (DoD) to buy six Lockheed Martin C-130Js in January 2008 in a package deal of around $1 billion.
There is an option to buy an additional six aircraft, without any cost escalation, but Naik said that while the IAF was considering this, a decision was likely after the first C-130Js would be received.
"We will see them, and then exercise the option," India Strategic quotes him as saying in its coming edition.
The US government is selling the aircraft under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, through the USAF.
According to Lockheed Martin, all the six aircraft are under various stages of construction. A picture of three of them being built has already been released while one C-130J has been painted in IAF colours and is undergoing pre-delivery flying tests.
The C-130J is a multirole airlifter with night landing capability from football field-sized air strips and battlefields.
The IAF`s C-130Js will also be equipped with a midair refuelling probe.
The USAF and DoD are involved in overseeing the fulfilment of contractual obligations by Lockheed Martin, and at present, 10 IAF pilots are undergoing training as part of the support package. Eight more will be sent shortly.
Naik said that all aircraft now come with their simulators and support and training packages. There is renewed emphasis on training and safety, both of which are crucial for mission success.
On an earlier occasion, the air chief has observed that mission succes means destruction of an enemy and safe return of own aircraft and pilots.