Hindon (Uttar Pradesh), Sept.2 (ANI): Indicating that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has embarked on a modernisation programme with an aim to acquire key capabilities necessary to address emerging national security challenges, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne welcomed the induction of the C-17 Globemaster III into the Air Force at a formal ceremony at the Hindon Air Force Base in Uttar Pradesh on Monday.
Describing it as a historic milestone in the IAF's ongoing transformation drive, Air Chief Marshal Browne said he was proud to accept "into our inventory one of the most modern and versatile airlift platforms."
"These capable aircraft bring with them a proven track record and form a vital part of our capability enhancement programme," he told the distiguished gathering present at the ceremony.
He also said he was proud to announce a new chapter in the IAF's glorious history through the raising of the 81 Squadron.
"The Skylords" join a very unique group of officers and men of our transport squadrons who bring with them a legacy of honour, dedication and sacrifice with a mandate to uphold the highest professional standards of the IAF," Air Chief Marshal Browne said.
Highlighting that India faces multi-faceted challenges to its security, as it is located in a geo-strategic region, Air Chief Marshal Browne said: "India's unique topography also makes our operational environment extremely challenging. Our area of operation is characterised by a diverse terrain, high altitude air bases and a constantly changing weather pattern. This imposes tough conditions on our combat crews and impinges on successful conduct of operations."
"Thus, the dynamic contours of modern battle space in such an ever evolving environment calls for a potent and modern air force with full spectrum capabilities. On its part, the IAF has its tasks well cut out to maintain very high levels of operational preparedness and to retain an ever vigilant posture," he added.
He further said that a comprehensive assessment of future scenarios and identification of key aerospace capabilities required in the 21st century, has resulted in the formulation of a detailed modernisation roadmap with new acquisitions, upgrades and training reviews.
"Airlift operations also play an indispensable role in aid of civil authorities and sustaining remote reaches of our vast land and ocean territory. The versatility demonstrated by the recently inducted C-130J Hercules in 'Op Rahat', while flying in fuel supplies to Uttarakhand, as also, the first time landing of the C-130J at DBO (Daulat Beg Oldie - height 16,600 ft) is an excellent example of IAF's professional competence and commitment" to the task of nation building, provide disaster relief support and sustain troops guarding the country's frontiers, he said.
He said that the C-17 Globemaster-III had been specifically selected to provide a major boost to strategic airlift capability.
He said that the aircraft is designed to rapidly despatch a payload of 70 tonnes across a range of 4200 kilomters.
"The C-17 fleet will provide tremendous flexibility in terms of operational response options in any future campaign. The long range, heavy lift capability will allow commanders to induct troops, squadrons, re-locate forces as well as shift forces between theatres rapidly," he said.
While stating that the existing fleet of IL-76, An-32, Avro and Dornier AC would continue to form the mainstay of tactical airlift capability, Air Chief Marshal Browne said the induction of ten C-17 aircraft in the 12th Plan period promises to be a 'game changer' on "how we conduct air transport operations."
"I can visualise that the enhanced reach and versatility of the C-17 fleet will bolster our ability to assist our neighbours and our friends in the Indian Ocean Region, as also our expanded interests globally," he added.
The Indian Air Force has received the first three aircraft on schedule and the remaining seven aircraft will also be inducted as part of an accelerated delivery programme.
"As part of the project, a total of 30 pilots, 10 engineers, 15 loadmasters and 84 technicians have been trained in USA. The (81) Squadron will operate from a state of the art squadron complex which will be ready by next year, and will be supported by a comprehensive infrastructure upgrade at Hindon, all of which forms a part of this project," Air Chief Marshal Browne said.
The first two aircraft were pressed into active service immediately upon reaching Hindon, undertaking missions to the Andaman and Nicobar islands as well as to high altitude airfields in the North.
Air Chief Marshal Browne conveyed his appreciation to the U.S. Government for supporting the Indian Globemaster programme.
"This programme is yet another milestone in the multi-faceted relationship between our nations. Our bilateral ties have grown deeper catalysed by common interests and complementary strengths," he said.
"I am confident that exchanges and mutual interactions between our Air Forces will go a long way in fostering greater understanding on issues of shared concern," he added.
Defence Minister A K Antony; Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh; Nation Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon; U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell; senior leaders of the U.S. Air Froce and Boeing; Air Warriors of the Indian Air Force and other distinguished guests were present on the occasion. (ANI)