HINDON: In a major boost to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) capability to swiftly move troops and tanks along the borders with China and Pakistan, Defence Minister A K Antony Monday formally inducted its biggest 70-tonne C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft into service at the Hindon Air Base.
“With this, the IAF has taken a giant stride towards its goal of acquiring multi-spectrum strategic capabilities, essential to safeguard India’s growing areas of interest,” he said. The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft has been procured from the US under a deal expected to be worth over Rs 20,000 crore. A symbolic key of the plane was presented by the Minister to the unit’s commanding officer to mark its induction.
Speaking on the occasion, IAF chief NAK Browne said the plane will be operated from the advanced landing grounds in the northeastern states and has already flown to high altitude bases in north and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He said it will be a game changer as it will change the way the IAF operates its transport aircraft.
“The C-17 fleet will provide tremendous flexibility in terms of operational response options in any future campaign. The aircraft will allow the commanders to induct troops, squadrons, re-locate forces as well as shift forces between theatres rapidly,” Browne said. He said the US-made heavylift aircraft can land at small airbases such as Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh sector where a C-130J Super Hercules plane had made its first landing recently.
“C-17 can also land on airfields such as the DBO. It needs only 3,500 feet to land whether it is hinterland or border. Wherever it is required, we will send it,” Browne said. The C-17, with a capability to carry around 70 tonnes of load and around 150 fully geared troops, will replace the Russian IL-76 as the biggest aircraft in the IAF inventory till now.
The IAF has placed orders with the US for ten C-17 aircraft under the deal signed in 2011 and three of them have already been delivered.