New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to acquire six more C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft in addition to the six already ordered.
The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, told India Strategic defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in), that the aircraft had performed well in the recent earthquake relief operations in north-eastern India and that the IAF would utilise the multi-role capability of the aircraft as required.
The C-130J can land and take off from unpaved, grassy fields the size of a football ground and can be a big support in both peace and war to drop or pick up equipment, soldiers and those hit by calamities.
The IAF had signed a deal for six C-130J aircraft for about USD 1.1 billion with the US military systems giant Lockheed Martin on January 31, 2008, and five of these aircraft have been delivered within 2011 as contacted, before their scheduled delivery time. Appropriate infrastructure has also been established and the required number of pilots trained either on or before time.
Browne said that the sixth and last of the aircraft was due in India in the first half of November, and the government had already approved the acquisition of another six aircraft. The first of the six aircraft was delivered in early 2011.
Discussions with the US Government and the company for the new batch were on, and he expected the order to be signed by January 2012, or in about three months from now. "We are very satisfied with the aircraft`s performance," he observed.
It may be noted that the government asked the IAF to provide relief to the Sikkim earthquake victims immediately after the disaster, and IAF pressed the C-130Js into service for the first time. Within the first couple of days, IAF airlifted lifted 188.75 tonnes of equipment, 735 personnel, including 20.48 tons of food, 6 tons of medicines, 8.5 tonnes of fuel and about 51.81 tonnes of relief material. Thirty-six casualties were also evacuated.
All the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft are being acquired under a direct government-to-government agreement, under what is known as the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme of the US government. The acquisition is on a turnkey basis that includes on-time delivery, training, setting up of support infrastructure, spares and spare engines. Most of the work has been completed at IAF`s Hindon airbase near the Indian capital.
The air chief said that "a full motion simulator is also being installed as part of the company`s offsets obligations and would be ready for utilisation by 2012".