Hindon (UP), Feb 5 (PTI) After four decades, theIndian Air Force (IAF) today inducted an American originaircraft, the C-130J ''Super Hercules'' transport plane,augmenting its special operational capability.
Defence Minister A K Antony formally commissioned theaircraft into the newly formed 77 Squadron of the IAF byhanding over the keys of the aircraft to Unit CommandingOfficer (CO) Group Captain Tejbeer Singh at Hindon air basenear here.
"C-130J will help the IAF to maintain its qualitativeedge and enhance its war fighting capabilities," Antony saidin his address at the induction ceremony.
Besides the Defence Minister, IAF chief P V Naik andthe American Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer were alsopresent at the ceremony.
The C-130Js, the latest version of Hercules with fourpowerful engines and around 20-tonne payload-carryingcapacity, will enhance India''s rapid reaction capabilitiessince the rugged aircraft can land on unprepared and short airfields as well.
Asked if the IAF would exercise the option ofprocuring another six aircraft, the Defence Minister said, "Wewill increase the number of aircraft in the transport fleet ofthe IAF. The process to get the C-17 heavy-lift aircraft is inthe final stages. We are not satisfied with six C-130J only."
With its 20-tonne payload capacity, the aircraft willalso help the IAF bridge the gap in load-carrying capabilitiesof the Russian Ilyushin-76 and Antonov-32, which can ferryloads up to 40 tonnes and 8 tonnes respectively.
The contract with the US includes training of aircrewand maintenance technicians, spares, ground support and testequipment, servicing carts, forklifts, loading vehicles, cargopallets and a team of technical specialists who will be basedin India during a three-year initial support period.
The Super Hercules is a highly integrated andsophisticated configuration primarily designed to supportIndia''s special operations requirement. Equipped with anInfrared Detection Set (IDS), the aircraft can performprecision low-level flying, airdrops and landing in blackoutconditions.
But in absence of defence agreements such as theCISMOA, the C-130Js will be without some of the criticalcommunication equipment that is fitted on the Americanaircraft.
The USAF, which is executing the government-to-government deal, had taken possession of the first C-130J at aceremony at Marietta near Atlanta on Dec 16 last year andhanded it over to the IAF the same day.
The IAF along with Lockheed Martin has modernised thehome base of the C-130Js and created infrastructure forhousing 12 such aircraft there along with creating servicingand operations facilities for the aircraft.
The company has also reinvested over USD 260 millioninto Indian defence sector under the offsets clause whichmandates investment of at least 30 per cent of the worth ofdeals over Rs 300 crore in Indian defence companies.
Referring to the growing defence relationship betweenthe two countries as a key component of the US-India strategicpartnership, the US ambassador said, "The sale of six C-130Jaircraft strengthens our bilateral military relationship andenhances joint regional security efforts between our twodemocracies."
Roemer also mentioned that the US President BarackObama also, while addressing the Parliament during his Indiavisit, referred the two countries as "two global leaders".
"The growing capabilities of the Indian military are atestament to his (Barack Obama) vision of India''s expandingrole as a global leader," Roemer added.