Indian Government’s Cabinet Committee for Security cleared the purchase of 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III’s. Once signed the deal will be the largest Indo-US defence deal valued at $ 4.1 Billion. The deal is expected to be signed shortly and will be via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. The deal was facing delays and criticism for being very expensive. Under the current preliminary contract signed during President Obama’s visit, India has an option to buy further six C-17’s. The current order of 10 C-17s is also by far the biggest order placed by any country other than the US.
The need for the very heavy category aircraft was felt by the India Air Force during exercise held with the US in 2008 and 2009. The need gained further momentum when the Russians failed to keep up with the spares and support supply for India’s fleet of 17 Il-76’s. India is currently breathing fresh life into its soviet era transport fleet consisting of An-32, Il-76’s, HS-748’s and Do-228. The An-32 is currently undergoing overhaul and upgradeable while the IAF has floated a new tender for spares of Il-76’s. HS-748 is to be retired. India also ordered 6 C-130J’s from USA.
Capabilities for the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III are unmatched in the world. With a payload capacity of 77.5 tonnes and Para dropping, it meets IAF’s requirement of VHETAC (Very heavy transport aircraft). The C-17 can also take off and land over rough airfields which India has plenty particularly near Indo-China border. C-17’s are expected to complement the existing fleet of Il-76’s for a decade and half and after that take it solo.