C-130J, a Lockheed Martin-built special aircraft, was deployed for the first time by the elite 77 Squadron in relief operations in quake-hit Sikkim, an IAF officer said in Bagdogra on Saturday.
"The earthquake struck at 1830 hours and we received a call at around 1945 hours. In the next one hour, we were ready with our two new machines to take up this special operation to provide relief to the people in Sikkim," Gp Capt Tejbir Singh, the commanding officer of the Hindon-based squadron said in Bagdogra.
The Special Operations aircraft was ready much before the National Disaster Response Force personnel could arrive at the air base to board the aircraft, he said.
The aircraft, six of which have been procured from the US in a $1 billion deal, was the first to reach the base here with 200 NDRF personnel, 20 tonnes of relief material and a large number of sniffer dogs for the relief operations.
This was the first time the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft was deployed in any such operation after its induction in February this year.
"The C-130J is an extremely versatile aircraft and has helped us to provide relief to the affected areas," 20 Wing Commander Air Commodore J Chalapathi said.
Giving a detail on the other operations carried out by the IAF, he said apart from the fixed wing aircraft which keep coming and going to the base, five Mi-17s and seven Cheetah/Chetak helicopters have been dedicated for the relief missions.
"So far, we have airlifted 153.7 tonnes of relief material and deployed over 691 personnel for carrying out relief work in the state there," senior Eastern Air Command official Air Marshal M Matheshwaran said.
He said over 18 casualties have been evacuated from the affected areas and 135 stranded personnel have also been brought back to the base here.
Matheshwaran said the main worry for the IAF has been the inclement weather due to which relief operations could not be taken up on two days in the last six days.