Monday, June 15, 2009

IAF chooses C 17 Globemaster III

Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel

IAF chooses C 17 Globemaster III

New Delhi. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has shortlisted the Boeing C 17 Globemaster III as its new Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft (VHTAC).

Chief of Air Staff air Chief Marshal P V Naik told India Strategic that the aircraft had been chosen after a thorough study because of its capability to take off and land on short runways with heavy loads, long range, and ease of operation.

IAF was looking at acquiring 10 C 17s initially through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, and that a proposal in this regard was being considered by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), he said adding that the aircraft should come in about three years after a contract is signed.

At present, India has less than 20 IL 76 Soviet-era aircraft for strategic lift, but they were acquired two decades ago. The requirement today is for technologically better, easier to maintain, and a larger number of aircraft due to the strategic scenario around India and the need to ferry troops, men and material even within India in times of contingency.

An IL 76 can carry a cargo of around 40 tonnes while a C 17 can carry 70 tonnes, and is much easier to operate with a small crew of two pilots and one loadmaster (total three) only despite its massive size, thanks to its various power-assisted systems. Two observers though can also be seated.

Despite its massive size – 174 ft length, 55 ft height and about 170 ft wingspan – a pilot can fly the aircraft with a simple joystick, much like a fighter aircraft, which can be lifesaving in a battlezone as the aircraft can take off quickly and at steep angles. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F-117-PW-100 turbofan engines.

The C 17 is the mainstay of US forces for worldwide deployment, and can be refueled midair. It is in fact the lifeline of US and NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Boeing has brought the aircraft several times to India for its literal catwalk on IAF tarmacs, including at the Aero India 2007 and 2009 in Bangalore. Indian military officials and journalists have been invited for the aircraft’s flight displays during the Paris Air Show beginning June 15.

According to the Boeing company, the high-wing, 4-engine, multi-service T-tailed military-transport C-17 can carry large equipment including two tanks, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world day or night.

The massive, sturdy, long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions. It has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s. It can take off from a 7,600-ft airfield, carry a payload of 160,000 pounds, fly 2,400 nautical miles, refuel while in flight for longer range, and land in 3,000 ft or less on a small unpaved or paved airfield day or night.

The aircraft can also be used as an aerial ambulance.

The cost of the aircraft is not available but according to published reports, it was $237 million in 2007.

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