Long Beach (California), Jan 24 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received its first Boeing C-17 strategic airlifter for flight testing by the US Air Force (USAF).
The beautiful and technologically sophisticated machine, which has a 77 tonne payload, was received on behalf of the IAF by Air Commodore Sanjay Nimesh, air attache in the Indian embassy in Washington, and some IAF officers who have been stationed here to oversee the completion of the project and for training.
This is the first of the 10 C-17 Globemaster III airlifters that India is buying for $4.1 billion in accordance with a 2010 government-to-government agreement and under the US government's foreign military sales (FMS) programme.
Boeing has delivered the aircraft on time and has promised to deliver four more this year and the remaining five in 2014 as per the agreement. Once inducted, it will be the IAF's largest transporter.
"It was exciting to see the C-17 fly again, this time with Indian Air Force markings, and we look forward to the day that the first IAF C-17 flies over India," Air Commodore Nimesh observed.
The aircraft will now enter a US Air Force flight test programme at Edwards Air Force Base in Palmdale, California, as per the FMS arrangement with the USAF. It would be formally handed over to IAF in June after it completes the flight tests.
The USAF is separately training some 100 IAF personnel, including pilots and technical crew.
The agreement to buy the C 17 was formalized after the aircraft's trials in hot and cold and low and high altitude trials in India, including landings and takeoffs at the short 4,620-footGaggal airfield in Himachal Pradesh. The aircraft was then commanded by Col Kelly Latimer, a former NASA pilot now with Boeing as a test pilot.
"The C-17's ability to operate in extremely hot and cold climates; transport large payloads across vast ranges; and land on short, austere runways makes it ideal for India's airlift needs," said Nan Bouchard, Boeing vice president and C-17 programme manager.
"We value our continued partnership with India and the US government and will provide dedicated support as India's first C-17 enters flight testing," he added.
The aircraft flies with a joystick, just as a fighter jet does, and is easier to fly than similar aircraft, Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major, during whose tenure as IAF chief the selection process was done, had then told India Strategic magazine ( www.indiastrategic.in).
Apart from the pilot and co-pilot, the aircraft carries two loadmasters, but can do with one thanks to its onboard crane and roller floor.
The pellets for the C-17 and the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules which IAF has already acquired are common and can be moved from one aircraft to another with ease.
Also, although the C 17 is a long-range aircraft, it can be refueled midair.
India's defence ministry signed an agreement with the US government on June 15, 2011, to acquire 10 C-17s, making India the largest customer for the aircraft outside the US. The governments finalized the FMS contract on June 6, 2012.
Boeing has delivered 250 C-17s worldwide, including 218 to the USAF active duty, National Guard and Reserve units. A total of 32 C-17s have been ordered by/ delivered to Australia, Canada, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.
Boeing will support the IAF C-17 fleet through the Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) Performance-Based Logistics contract.
The GISP "virtual fleet" arrangement ensures mission readiness by providing all C-17 customers access to an extensive support network for worldwide parts availability and economies of scale. This brings spares and support closer to the point of use and makes the C-17 more affordable to own and operate, according to a Boeing statement.