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India begins flight out of Russia arms

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  • Published 13.06.13

New Delhi, June 12: The Indian Air Force is marking the beginning of the end of Russian dominance in its transport fleet after acquiring the first C-17 Globemaster III in the US on Tuesday.

The Boeing-made strategic airlifter, used by the US air force to transport soldiers and military hardware from stations in America to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, will eventually become the mainstay of the IAF’s heavy lift requirement. They will gradually displace the Russian-made IL-76 transporters that still have a decade and more to go.

“The C-17 will equip the Indian Air Force with the world’s most advanced humanitarian and strategic capabilities,” said Air Vice-Marshal S.R.K. Nair, assistant chief of air staff operations (transport and helicopters) while taking possession of the Globemaster III. “We have looked forward to this day when our Indian Air Force flies the first C-17 to its new home in India.”

Russian officials were taken aback by the $4.1-billion deal struck with the Pentagon in July 2009, when the Indian government was still flush with the strategic import of the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

In February this year, the head of the Russian military delegation to Aero India in Bangalore, Viktor Komardin, ranted that the purchase was “without logic”.

“It is not fair. Arms sales in military technology projects are now all politics. Billions of dollars are paid for procurements without transfer of technology. It is improper, it is unfair,” Komardin had said of the deals to procure the C-130J Hercules (made by Lockheed Martin) and the C-17.

“I accept politics but fair should be fair. Russia is a strategic partner of India. We want to be dealt with as partners,” he had added, questioning why the IAF was buying an aircraft that the US had produced for trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic military movement.

Boeing is on track to deliver four more C-17s to the IAF this year and five in 2014, the company said in a statement after transferring the first aircraft.

“Congratulations to the Indian Air Force on this milestone as India joins the worldwide community of C-17 operators,” said Tommy Dunehew, Boeing vice-president of business development for mobility, surveillance and engagement.

“Nations turn to the C-17 for the capability to perform a wide range of operations, from peacekeeping and disaster relief to troop movements from semi-prepared airfields. This aircraft will provide the Indian Air Force with the versatility to augment airlift capability.”

The IAF fixed-wing transport fleet comprises about 18 IL-76 aircraft, about 100 Antonov and six C-130J Hercules. The IL-76 can lift up to 50,000kg, far less than the 80,000kg that the C-17 lifts. The C-17 also has a shorter landing and take-off requirement and can take-off from runways that are little better than dirt-strips.

The Hercules is a tactical airlifter compared to the C-17 with the capability to lift 20,000kg.

The first C-17 squadron will also be based at Hindon, just east of Delhi, where the C-130J Hercules are stationed. The IAF has the option of ordering six more C-17 Globemaster III in addition to the 10 that it has contracted.