India’s first C-17 Globemaster III
The fruit of India’s single largest defence contract yet with Washington took shape last month at Boeing’s big military aircraft facility in Long Beach, California, with tail section, fuselage and forward section of the first C-17 Globemaster III for the Indian Air Force (IAF) ceremonially riveted together in the presence of senior diplomats, politicians and Boeing brass.
Ambassador N. Parthasarathi, Consul General of India, San Francisco, said, “This momentous occasion, where we see India’s first C-17 take shape, further strengthens our growing relationship. As India strives to become a global reservoir of highly skilled and technologically sophisticated manpower, we will witness an escalating technology transfer, collaborative joint research and development, and coproduction of defence items between our two countries.”
Twenty IAF pilots and 10 logisticians/loadmasters are currently at the United States Air Force (USAF) base in Altus, Oklahoma, being trained on C-17 flying and loading operations. The first of 10 Indian C-17s, contracted at a cost of just over $4.1 billion (`22,500 crore)—making it the largest defence contract between the two countries so far—is on schedule for delivery to India in June 2013. The 10 aircraft are to be based at the Hindon Air Force station from which operations are slated to enter full tempo by the end of 2014 when deliveries are completed.
While it is well known that the C-17 foreign military sales (FMS) does not contain an options clause, former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik revealed last year that the service was considering at least six more aircraft. A decision on such a follow-on order, however, will only be taken once deliveries begin next year. However, there is a catch. The Indian Government will need to take a decision no later than late next year, since Boeing, having completed deliveries to the USAF by that time, and assuming there are no fresh international orders, will begin to wind down the facility.
Air Commodore Sanjay Nimesh, Air Attaché, Indian Embassy, Washington, at the ‘major join’ ceremony