Sunday, June 26, 2011

IAF looks for more C-130J aircrafts

The Indian Air Force is actively pursuing the purchase of more transport aircrafts, include Lockheed Martin's C-130J Super Hercules, to bolster its strategic lift capabilities, even as it seeks to move an increasing number of troops and military equipment along the Line of Actual Control, which the country shares with China.

"Yes, we would like to have more C-130J and C-17 aircrafts. We will start with the statement of case soon," outgoing Air Chief Marshal PV Naik said during a press briefing held at the IAF's Headquarters Training Command on Wednesday.

The Air Chief's statement comes six months after ET had reported that Lockheed Martin had held talks with New Delhi for a follow-on order for six 130J Super Hercules aircrafts.

The aircrafts, which are reputed to be the best in its class, were purchased for $962.7 million, and have been customised for Special Forces operations.

Naik, who will be replaced by Air Marshal NAK Browne as the country's Air Chief, also said that any such deal would be negotiated through the Foreign Military Sales route.

The heavy-lifters are seen as critical to the IAF's needs as it looks to replace its Soviet-era IL-76 transport aircraft fleet, which have been dogged by a lack of serviceability and spares, and are also coming to the end of their operational lifespan.

"The IL, which is a 40-tonne plus aircraft, as a fleet has served us very well, but it is aging now. So, one strategy is their up-gradation and overhauling, but they do not have too much life left. The other strategy is the purchase of the C-17 aircrafts, which carries twice the load of an Ilyushin, and has the advantage of landing on shorter air strips," Naik.

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