IAF inducts Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
On the 81st year of the Indian Air Force (IAF), it has got a new squadron, Sqaudron No.81, which will be known as ‘Skylords’ and will house the 10 C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter fleet of the IAF. In a ceremony held at the Hindon Airbase, Defence Minister A.K. Antony inducted the first three of the ten C-17s ordered from the US defence major Boeing. Two more C-17s will be inducted this year and the remaining five will be delivered by November 2014.
The US Ambassador to India Nancy Jo Powell, Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh; Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Vice Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Arup Raha, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Air Command Air Marshal S.S. Soman and senior officials from the United States Air Force (USAF), IAF and Boeing, were a part of the induction ceremony. Group Captain B.S. Reddy, the Commanding Officer of the Squadron 81 which will be based in Hindon was handed over the golden key.
Antony declared the induction of C-17 as a ‘defining moment’. “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. Today’s induction of C-17 will further boost IAF’s capability for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
“Traditional challenges to our national security have evolved into complex multi-dimensional threats. A long-term comprehensive capability enhancement approach by and for our armed forces is the need of the hour. The government remains fully committed to this responsibility,” said the Minister. He further added that the induction of C-17 adds another important milestone in the Indo-US strategic partnership.
Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne stated that the C-17 will be a game changer, an enabler. “The induction of 10 C-17 aircraft promises to be a game changer on how we conduct air transport operations. 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 the commanders to induct troops, squadrons, relocate forces as well as shift forces between theatres rapidly. The C-17 would form an extremely important component of the strategic airlift capability and reach of the IAF.”
“The Skylords join a very unique group of officers and me 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 IAF.” The Air Chief later informed that the C-17s will be used in border areas as well as in hinterland. Like the C-130J, which recently made a historic landing at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the C-17 can also land at the world’s highest airstrip. The first C-17 has already flown the Infantry Battalion to Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A picture of the C-130J landing at DBO was handed over by the Air Chief to the Defence Minister.
Antony said that as there was a need for a capable strategic airlift platform, the government had expedited the process of procuring 10 C-17 Globemaster III from the US as a part of the foreign military sales (FMS) programme. The first and the second Boeing C-17 airlifters had arrived in India in June and July respectively, and the third Globemaster had departed from the company’s Long Beach facility on August 20 this year.
In operation since 1991, the C-17 is a large, versatile military transport aircraft able to carry heavy, oversize loads to long distances and land on rough and unprepared surfaces. It has been used in humanitarian and military missions around the world and recently surpassed 2.6 million flight hours. As of date, Boeing has delivered 256 C-17s,
including 222 to the US Air Force and a total of 34 to Australia, Canada, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Partnership for Peace nations.
According to Boeing, the C-17’s ability to fly long distances and land in remote airfields in rough, landlocked regions make it a premier transporter for military, humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. It can take off from a 7,600-ft. airfield, carry a payload of 1,60,000 pounds, fly 2,400 nautical miles, and refuel while in flight and land in 3,000 ft or less on a small unpaved or paved airfield in day or night. The C-17 can drop a single 60,000-lb payload, with sequential load drops of 1,10,000 lb; and seat 54 on the sidewall and 48 in the centreline.
Addressing the press after the induction ceremony, the Defence Minister said that there is no possibility of sabotage in the Sindhurakshak submarine accident. However, he said that nothing can be ruled out till the Board of Inquiry submits its report. On China’s intrusion into India, the Minister clarified that such incidents would happen as long as the border agreement between India and China is not finalised. Soldiers on both sides of the border are often confused and move into each other’s territory. “Besides diplomatic endeavours, we are trying to have better understanding between militaries and some steps have already been taken. We are looking at more practical and effective mechanisms, strengthening capability and finding ways to build relationship. Our border forces are handling those capabilities effectively.” The Indo-China joint military exercise is likely to be held in a few months.
To a question whether India will allow the US to use the Thiruvananthapuram Airbase, the Defence Minister said that we are procuring state-of-the-art modern capabilities from the US, but we are not tilting towards any country. “We are also buying from other countries like Russia, UK, France, and we will not be a party to any country’s military growth. There is no proposal to give the airbase to the US,” he said.
Contract negotiations on the Dassault Rafale, the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) selected for the IAF is on, and there will be many more processes after the contract negotiation gets over and he said that he will not be able to tell when the MMRCA will be signed as everything depends on the completion of the procedure. Antony avoided commenting on the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to engage in talks with Pakistan and said that it is a decision which the Prime Minister will be taking and he has no authority to say anything. On being asked about the government’s decision to reject the Air Chief’s proposed visit to China, the Defence Minister said that the Air Chief goes to friendly countries, if he accepts their invitation.
(Top left) Defence Minister A.K. Antony handing over the golden key to the Commanding Officer of Squadron 81, B.S. Reddy at the Hindon Airbase. Also seen are Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Vice Chief Arup Raha; (top right) The US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell receives a memento from Air Chief Marshal Browne; (above left) A.K. Antony and Jitendra Singh in the cockpit of C-17 Globemaster III; (above right) Air Chief Marshal Browne handing over a photograph of C-130J-30 landing at
DBO to the Defence Minister. The Commanding Officer Group Captain Tejbir Singh (extreme left) and the crew of the ‘Veiled Vipers’ were present on the occasion.