Following the delivery of the first of the 10 C-17 Globemaster-III heavy-lift aircraft from the US, the IAF on Tuesday received a major boost to its military airlift capability.
With IAF pilots at the controls, the aircraft had flown all the way from the US Air Force’s (USAF) Edwards Airbase at Palmdale in California, after it was delivered by Boeing a week ago.
As the C-17 touched down at the IAF’s Hindon Airbase here, the plane and its crew were greeted by IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshal S Sukumar.
“The aircraft will enhance the operational potential of the IAF with its payload carriage and performance capability. It would augment the strategic reach of the nation during disaster relief or any similar mission. The induction of the C-17 is a major milestone in the modernisation drive of the IAF,” a Union Ministry of Defence dispatch said.
The giant aircraft, with a proven capacity to carry 70-tonne cargo over a distance of 4,200 km, can ferry battle tanks, howitzers and armed-to-the-teeth Indian troopers to battlefields and conflict zones in far-flung regions, thereby greatly enhancing the Army’s ability to launch operations.
The rugged plane can land on makeshift runways and it takes less time to turnaround after a mission. Not only that, the aircraft can land on a 3,500-foot long runway. These capabilities will be the key to the country’s military doctrines, which lay stress on short but quick punishing strikes on enemy positions.
The four-engine C-17 will also become a vital cog in the military planners’ strategy for swift induction of the troops and their equipment as a counter to the Chinese military might, which has led to a massive build up in the Tibetan autonomous region along India’s Eastern frontier. Hindon, which is already home to the US-built Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, will also house the IAF’s C-17 fleet.
Meanwhile, the aircraft’s manufacturers Boeing congratulated the IAF on the C-17’s arrival here. According to the aviation major,the IAF would become the largest C-17 operator outside the US.
Another four C-17s will be delivered by Boeing by this year-end, while the remaining five will be delivered in 2014 thereby fulfilling the terms of the over Rs 22,000-crore contract, which was signed in mid-2011. “The C-17s will strengthen the IAF’s airlift capabilities and exemplify the close relationship Boeing has with India,” Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar was quoted as saying in a company release.
“India is an important customer for Boeing and we will be here for the long-term to meet the country’s military and security needs,” Kumar said.