A monstrous US-origin aircraft that will enable the Indian Air Force to carry troops, artillery guns and armoured vehicles close to Sino-Indian border will be the star attraction of ninth edition of Aero-India in the absence of dazzling fighters with fiery punch from around the world.
The massive aircraft with 174 feet length, 55 feet height and 170 feet wingspan attended earlier versions of the show but was over-shadowed by the more glamorous fighters.
But the presence of Boeing's C-17 Globemaster-III in the air show this time has additional significance this time because the IAF is expected to take the possession of the first aircraft in June. “The first aircraft is coming in June. After that one aircraft would be delivered almost every month,” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said here on Tuesday. Four C-17s will be delivered to the IAF this year and five in 2014. India purchased 10 C-17 at a cost of $ 4.1 billion from the US.
Capable of carrying a maximum payload of 77.5 tonnes, including combat vehicles, artillery guns and battle-ready troops, Globemaster would strengthen India's strategic capabilities, said a defence ministry official. A Boeing spokesperson said C-17 can carry tanks as well.
The four-engine aircraft is capable of taking off and landing on makeshift runways, barely 3,500-feet long and 90-feet wide, making it an ideal choice for carrying troops and artillery guns much closer to the border in quick time. Once delivered, the C-17 fleet will be based in Hindon in Ghaziabad near Delhi.
At present India has less than 20 IL-76 Soviet-era aircraft for strategic lift, acquired two decades ago. Each Il-76 can carry a cargo of around 45 tonnes while C-17's capacity is about 75 tonnes making it a superior platform not only for strategic operations but also in cases of natural emergencies.
Despite its size and heavier load carrying capacity, C-17 can be managed by a smaller crew compared to the IL-76. It can take off quickly and at sharp angles.
"The C-17 met the stipulated airlift requirements of the Indian Air Force when it flew field evaluation trials in India during June 2010," Air Commodore Sanjay Nimesh, Air Attaché at the Embassy of India in Washington, said in January after the first plane was handed over for flight testing.
Besides French Rafale and indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, US-made F-16 fighters from Lockheed Martin will also enthral the audience.
Incidentally, Lockheed, which lost out in the 126 fighter jet contract, bagged the $ 62 million contract for 6 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft used in transport and special operations.
Negotiations are going on for a follow-on deal to buy six more C-130 J for the IAF. IAF chief Browne said the much-awaited contract to buy 126 medium multirole combat aircraft was unlikely to be signed in this financial year.