New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will induct in June 2013 the first of the 10 C-17 Globemaster-III heavy airlifters it has purchased from the US, and then order six more.
IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, told India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) in an interview that Boeing would deliver all the already ordered 10 aircraft between 2013 and 2014, and that once the IAF was satisfied with their performance, six more would be ordered. By 2015, the induction of all the 16 aircraft should be complete.
"C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are expected to be inducted between 2013 and 2015," he said.
The Air Chief said that the IAF had actually planned to acquire 20 aircraft but right now, it had the Defence Ministry`s approval for just 16.
The aircraft had done well during the rigorous tests for short takeoffs and night operations and the IAF is preparing a number of its airbases, including in the mountainous northern and northeastern region, for the C-17 and Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. The latter have, in fact, begun relief operations in the northeastern region following the recent earthquake.
Both the aircraft can be refuelled midair and would be networked with the IAF`s air and ground assets.
The IAF hopes to sign the contract for the additional six C-17s within 2013. The contract for the first lot of 10 aircraft was signed in June this year in accordance with the US government`s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme under a government-to-government deal for USD 4.1 billion, which included a training and support package as well as 30 percent offset investment into India`s defence programmes.
Notably, Boeing officials had told a group of Indian journalists visiting the C-17 manufacturing facility at Long Beach in California last year that the company could accelerate production and deliver the required number before schedule.
Boeing has nearly completed the US Air Force (USAF) requirement, and its C-17 production line is due to close after the last few orders are delivered over the next three or four years. The production capacity has already been halved to 10 aircraft a year so that the factory can continue a little longer for a few more possible international orders.
Nearly 235 of these long-range heavy-lift aircraft have been delivered so far, and even with a small number of 10 or 16 airlifters, India will be its second biggest customer. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), with six aircraft, is the third largest.
USAF has a total order for 223 aircraft, and the C-17 has been extensively used to support combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as humanitarian missions across the world, including in Pakistan.
It may be noted that even Lockheed Martin is delivering all the six C-130J aircraft before their scheduled delivery time, and this is the first time that the IAF has received its aircraft from a foreign supplier without delay, on or before time, and without any additional demands on cost.
The IAF received its first C-130J in February 2011 and the last and sixth is due here November 11.