NEW DELHI — Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington Sept. 27, the Indian Defence Ministry’s highest body on Friday cleared the acquisition of six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft from the US.
The aircraft are being purchased on a government-to-government basis at a cost of more than US $1 billion. The clearance to top the existing six C-130J aircraft with another six was made at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council.
The Lockheed Martin-built aircraft have been effective in rugged terrain, including mountains, for transporting troops and cargo, an Indian Air Force official said. “We are very happy with the performance of the Hercules, and the aircraft does everything which IAF wants,” the official said.
The Air Force has stood up a new squadron for flying the C-130J. Squadron 77 is nicknamed the “Veiled Vipers” with a motto “strike to kill.”
Last month, the Air Force landed the C-130J at the Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip in Ladakh bordering China in northern India, known as the world’s highest airfield. The airstrip’s elevation is 16,614 feet and the landing was considered a “strong gesture to China,” defense analyst Nitin Mehta said.
In 2007, India signed a deal to purchase six C-130Js for around $1.1 billion.
This month, the Air Force inducted the first of 10 C-17 transport aircraft contracted from the United States at more than $4 billion.
India’s military transport fleet includes the Russian-made IL-76 and Antonov-32 aircraft.
An Air Force source said India plans to buy six additional C-17s on top of the already contracted 10 aircraft.