India has signed its biggest military deal yet with the US to buy six Super Hercules C130J special role aircraft in a $1 billion-plus package deal.
Air Chief Marshal FH Major, Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF), told India Strategic website and defence magazine that a Letter of Agreement (LAO) was signed on January 30 in New Delhi for six aircraft, infrastructure, spares and spare engines, related equipment, and operational and maintenance training.
"It's a package deal with the US government under its Foreign Military Sales Programme (FMS), and India has retained options to buy six more of these aircraft for its special forces for combined army-air force operations," the IAF chief told the magazine's website which he will inaugurate Thursday.
Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest military equipment manufacturer, has made the aircraft. Its India chief executive officer (CEO), Douglas A. Hartwick, told India Strategic that the company would begin supplying the aircraft within 36 months of the signing of the LOA.
Notably, the US government guarantees supplies of equipment and infrastructure package under its FMS programme. But its procedures do not take into account any commercial details like offsets, and it is left to the manufacturing company to sort that out.
However, as India has made 30 percent minimum offsets obligatory for any defence deal worth or over Rs.3 billion ($70 million) under its Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) 2006, Hartwick said Lockheed Martin would meet this requirement by transferring technology and investment as mutually agreed to.
This is the third Indian agreement for military equipment with the US. The first two were for Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) from Raytheon for the artillery and the other for second-hand amphibious operations ship LPD (landing Platform Dock) Trenton, now named INS Jalashwa along with its six onboard Sikorsky helicopters.
The cost of the Super Hercules deal has not been disclosed in India but according to indications from Washington, the package is worth nearly $1.1 billion. This outstrips the cost of the earlier two deals put together.
Major said that the aircraft would be "an extended version" built according to Indian specifications.
"It would be a couple of metres longer than the standard Hercules aircraft, and equipped with equipment for night and battle zone operations."
The C-130J model is the latest optimised version of the Hercules C-130, configured for landing and takeoff from a grassy, or dirt patch the size of a football field. It can climb and get out of a threat area faster after dropping or carrying troops or wounded personnel.
Named after a powerful Greek figure, the 4-engine Hercules is one of the oldest transport aircraft in the world. Introduced in the 1950s, and used in 67 countries, it has been deployed for recovering space capsules and also been able to land in the Antarctica by wearing skis.
The Super Hercules version is an entirely new aircraft with new capabilities in the 20-tonne capacity category.
Its engines are quieter, and the aircraft has advanced radar and missile warning systems, counter-measure dispensation and sophisticated communication equipment. India is reportedly buying eight spare engines.
Major said that with its low-power cockpit display and lights-off operational capability, the C-130J would be an important asset with the IAF. It could be used in various forms, including as a refueller for helicopters and transport aircraft.
The aircraft has a low power Northrop Grumman display, digitally stored maps, a Honeywell Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS), an Enhanced Traffic alerting and Collision Avoidance System (E-TCAS), a ground collision avoidance system, and other sophisticated equipment.