July 23, 2014

India exercises option for six more Hercules transport aircraft

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has exercised its options for a further six Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft under a USD564.7 million contract modification announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 18 July.
The deal includes field service representatives and three years of post-delivery support after the first aircraft delivery, and is set to run to 30 April 2020. Once delivered, these new aircraft will be based at Panagargh in eastern India, the proposed headquarters of the Indian Army's new XVII Mountain Strike Corps.
India received the first of its initial batch of six C-130J-30 aircraft in February 2011, with the remaining five arriving in-country by September of that year. Operated by the specially formed 77 Squadron at Hindon Airbase, near New Delhi, these aircraft are used primarily for special forces operations. In August 2013 a C-130J-30 demonstrated the type's ability to support Indian military operations in the far north of the country when it landed on the world's highest airstrip in the Himalayan Ladakh region bordering China.
With six aircraft already in service, the IAF signed a letter of offer and acceptance for the additional six platforms in December 2013. The total value of these six new platforms, including engines, spares, and support is USD1.1 billion, bringing the cumulative value of India's C-130J-30 buy to USD2.06 billion.

In May 2014 an IAF C-130J-30 crashed on take-off near Gwalior, around 370 km southwest of New Delhi, killing all five crew members. Official sources ascribed the cause of that incident to wake turbulence, rather than any mechanical fault with the aircraft.

The IAF's contract to procure additional C-130J-30 platforms is part of a wider recapitalisation and build-up of India's airlift capability. Over recent years, the country has signed for 10 (and received 8 to date) Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft, and is developing with Russia a tactical twin-engined jet transport aircraft, known as the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA).
Also, the IAF has received 12 Dornier Do-228 light transport aircraft manufactured indigenously by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and has launched a competition to buy 56 light/medium tactical transport aircraft. The frontrunners for that requirement are the Airbus DS C295 and Alenia Aermacchi C-27J aircraft. Finally, in 2009 the IAF signed a USD398 million contract with Ukrspetsexport, the Ukrainian state defence export agency, to upgrade the IAF's fleet of Antonov An-32 'Cline' transport aircraft to extend their service lives from 20 to 40 years.


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