IAF’s new bird to pack punch
The air force will kick off the induction of its latest multi-mission aircraft imported from the US at the Hindon airbase outside New Delhi on Saturday, sharpening the capability of India’s special forces to carry out airborne day and night strikes.delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2011 00:33 IST
The air force will kick off the induction of its latest multi-mission aircraft imported from the US at the Hindon airbase outside New Delhi on Saturday, sharpening the capability of India’s special forces to carry out airborne day and night strikes.
The fourth largest air force in the world will formally induct the first of six C-130J Super Hercules airlifters ordered from the US three years back for $1.2 billion (Rs 5,400 crore). The remaining deliveries will be completed by the end of this year.
The new fleet is one of the biggest contracts executed so far under Washington’s foreign military sales programme, a government-to-government method for selling US defence equipment, services and training.
One of the reasons for basing the fleet, configured for special operations and airborne assault, near Delhi is to cut down on critical response time in dealing with situations akin to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, an IAF official said. The transport aircraft, built by aerospace major Lockheed Martin, can carry out precision low-level flying, airdrops and landing in blackout conditions.
Hindon, which was once home to the Mig-23s and MiG-27s, was abandoned as a fighter base in 1997 after the IAF lost several aircraft to bird hits.
The Indian C-130J will, however, be a stripped down version of the variant operated by the US air force, as New Delhi has not yet inked a crucial agreement with the US to protect classified security data. US law lays down that sensitive technologies can be transferred to another country only after signing the CISMOA (Communications, Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement).
India has to sign the agreement if the American platforms it is buying have to come with hi-tech systems used for collecting and disseminating information. Lockheed Martin’s vice president (business development-India) Orville Prins, however, said the C-130J had been tailored to meet all the operational requirements of the IAF in its current configuration.
“I can’t think of any mission that a USAF C-130J can accomplish, which the Indian variant can’t,” Prins told HT. The IAF too has said the CISMOA would not come in the way of exploiting the capabilities of the platform.
The aircraft, powered by four Rolls Royce engines, can be used for a variety of missions such as special operations, combat delivery, peacekeeping, low intensity conflict, search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian missions. Self-protection systems ensure survivability in hostile air defence environments.
The contract covers training of aircrew and maintenance technicians, spares, ground support and test equipment, servicing carts, forklifts, loading vehicles, cargo pallets and a team of technical specialists who will be based in India during a three-year initial support period. It is operated by 11 international air forces including those of the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Italy.
It comes with major system improvements over the previous variant including an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics, colour multifunctional LCDs and head-up displays, fully integrated defensive systems, digital map displays, new turboprop engines with six-bladed propellers, digital auto pilot and an enhanced cargo-handling system.
Military contracts usually have a provision for placing follow on orders. The IAF is toying with the idea of a repeat order for six Lockheed Martin KC-130J tankers to expand the reach of its fighter planes, enabling them to deploy swiftly to distant theatres of operations.