New Delhi. The first Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules with the IAF insignia in Indian hues will be delivered early 2011.
Lockheed Martin’s India CEO Roger Rose told India Strategic in an interview that the infrastructure to operate the six aircraft that the Indian Air Force is buying is nearly complete at the Hindon air force station near the Indian capital and that all the aircraft will be “delivered on time, on schedule and within the budget.”
The first aircraft has already been painted in IAF colours, and examined by IAF representatives and pilots in the US at the company’s Marietta aircraft production facility. Appropriate training arrangements for Indian pilots, both in the US and India, were also being implemented in accordance with the nearly USD one billion deal that included the six aircraft, spare engines and other parts, training and maintenance facilities in India.
“We are in fact ahead of schedule in every respect,” Mr Rose, a former US Navy submariner, said.
Lockheed Martin was now in discussions with IAF on the potential sale of six more C 130Js, as per the options in the agreement, and a couple of more aircraft, albeit with lower configuration, for the Border Security force (BSF) and Indian Coast Guard.
The C 130J is a special operations aircraft to land and takeoff from a battle zone. It is capable of operating from rough dirt strips to drop or pick up men and material from hostile areas. It is equipped with missile defence systems.
“The flexible design of the Super Hercules enables it to be configured for many different missions, allowing for one aircraft to perform the role of many, including mid-air refueling. Much of the special mission equipment added to the Super Hercules is removable, allowing it to quickly switch roles. Equipped with an infrared detection set (IDS), the aircraft for the first time will provide the IAF an ability to conduct precision low-level flying operations, airdrops and landings in blackout conditions,” Mr Rose said.
The aircraft is also good for civilian use in India’s mountainous north-eastern regions.
As for the first aircraft for the IAF, it is now entering pre-delivery test flights to check the aircraft and systems. All the six aircraft are due to be delivered by 2012.
And from October, the US Air Force (USAF) will start providing formal conversion training on its own aircraft to an initial batch of IAF’s transport pilots. Notably, the deal to buy the aircraft is the with the US Government under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme and involves USAF’s participation right from the demonstration to training and delivery.
Mr Rose said that Lockheed Martin was ready to ensure a high 80 per cent availability of the C 130Js to the IAF at any given time, and extend maintenance support for 30 to 40 years. There are long-term agreements already with the air forces of Australia, Britain and Canada.
Although the C 130 aircraft first flew in the 1950s, it has been constantly upgraded with newer designs and there is nothing common between the current generation and the older aircraft except perhaps looks to an extent. The C130J model is also a little bigger and has powerful engines to suit special operations requirements.
The four-engine turboprop aircraft was initially designed as a tactical airlifter for short takeoff and landings from unprepared strips, a role that it still performs. It can be used to ferry troops and cargo for airborne assault or to evacuate the injured from a battle zone. The C 130 is the only military aircraft to remain in continuous production, although in some 40 versions, and in service with about 60 countries.
It first flew on August 1967 and entered service with USAF in December 1957.
The aircraft has been used as a gunship, for scientific research, weather reconnaissance including penetrating high speed tornados, maritime reconnaissance, aerial firefighting and so on. “We have the KC130J refueller version which we feel will be a great asset to IAF. The WC130J is the weather version which can fly through a cyclone, and can be used by the weather department.
As for the Indo-US C 130J deal, Mr Rose said that under the FMS, you get exactly what you pay for.
The US government also charges an administrative fee, which is fixed periodically between 2.5 to 5 five per cent of the deal. (The percentage in this case was not readily available).
Although an FMS deal may not have an offset clause, in this case Lockheed Martin has a 30 per cent offset commitment. The company is also committed to provide periodic upgrades.