The first of India's six C-130J Super Hercules airlifters, considered the world's most advanced transport aircraft, has emerged from the paint shop in Indian Air Force colours, roughly six months before its scheduled delivery.
Purchased from the US in a $1 billion deal, the tactical transport "aircraft now enters flight test in preparation for delivery at the end of the year," its manufacturer Lockheed Martin said releasing an image of the plane in IAF colours at its Marietta plant in Georgia
Lockheed last month released an image of India's first three of six stretched-fuselage C-130J-30s in final assembly and said the first example would arrive in India next February.
The plane, it said would provide the Indian Army and Air Force "new special operations capabilities using the world's most advanced airlifter."
The programme for India includes six C-130Js, training of aircrew and maintenance technicians, spare parts, and ground support and test equipment, it said. Also included is India-unique operational equipment designed to increase Special Operations capabilities.
Equipped with an infrared detection set (IDS), the aircraft for the first time will provide the IAF an ability to conduct precision low-level flying operations, airdrops and landings in blackout conditions.
To ensure 80 percent availability of the aircraft at any given time, Lockheed Martin has offered a long-term maintenance contract to the IAF on the lines of the ones it has with the US Air Force and the air forces of Australia, Britain and Canada.
The C-130J primarily performs the tactical portion of an airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.
The flexible design of the Super Hercules enables it to be configured for many different missions, allowing for one aircraft to perform the role of many. Much of the special mission equipment added to the Super Hercules is removable, allowing the aircraft to quickly switch between roles.
The C-130J "Super" Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. The C-130J is a comprehensive update of the venerable Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with new engines, flight deck, and other systems.
The Hercules family has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. During more than 50 years of service, the family has participated in military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations.
The Hercules has also outlived several planned successor designs, most notably the Advanced Medium STOL Transport contestants.
The C-130J is the newest version of the Hercules and the only model still in production. Externally similar to the classic Hercules in general appearance, the J model sports considerably updated technology.
The aircraft can also be configured with the "enhanced cargo handling system". The system consists of a computerised load masters station from where the user can remotely control the under floor winch and also configure the flip floor system to palletised roller or flat floor cargo handling.
The cargo compartment is approximately 41 feet long, 9 feet high, and 10 feet wide, and loading is from the rear of the fuselage. Initially developed for the USAF, this system enables rapid role changes to be carried out and so extends the C-130J's time available to complete taskings
These combined changes have improved performance over its C-130E/H siblings, such as 40 percent greater range, 21 percent higher maximum speed, and 41 percent shorter take-off distance.