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IAF Chooses C 17 Globemaster III

By Gulshan Luthra and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd)Published : June 2009

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 of its capability to take off and land on short runways with heavy loads, longrange, and ease of operation.

IAF was looking at acquiring 10C 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 for 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 45 tonnes while a C 17 can carry 70 tonnes, and is much easier to operate with a small crew of two pilots and a loadmaster (total three) only despite its massive size, thanks to its various powered-asisted systems. Two observers though can also be seated.

An IL 76 has a crew of six plus gunner in the tail.

Despite its massive size - 174 ft length, 55 ft height and about 170 ft wingspan - a pilot can fly the aircraft with simple joystick, much like a fighter aircraft which can be life saving in a battlezone as the aircraft can take off quickly and at step angles. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F-11-7-PW-100 turbofan engines.

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

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

According to Boeing Company, the high wing, 4-engine, multi-service T-tailed military transport C 17 can carry large equipment including tanks, supplies and troops directly to small airfield 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 1990's. It can take off from 7,600 ft airfield, carry a payload of 16,000 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 aerial ambulance.

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

  © India Strategic 
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