Indian Air Force to begin C-17 trials by month-end

New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) is likely to begin trials of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft, of which it intends to purchase 10, by the end of the month, an official said.

‘It should happen in the next two weeks,’ the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

‘The trials should last about 10 days,’ he added of the evaluation process of the aircraft, which has a carrying capacity of 75 tonnes.

The trials are likely to be conducted in the same manner as the IAF is evaluating the six combat jets in contention for an order for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.

This means the C-17, which can take off from unprepared airstrips as short as 3,000 metres, will be put through its paces in the icy heights of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, the deserts of Rajasthan and the humid conditions of south India.

Price negotiations will begin after the trials and the first aircraft should arrive within two years of Boeing receiving a letter of acceptance, the official said.

Asked how long it would take for IAF pilots to convert to the C-17, the official said: ‘Pilots who have done a reasonable number of hours on the Il-76 (the IAF’s current heavy lift aircraft) can convert to command status in a few months.’

The US Congress has cleared the sale of the C-17 to India. The Obama administration had notified Congress April 23 of the potential sale of 10 aircraft and sought objections or approval.

The aircraft are being sold to India under the US government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, with the maximum package value of $5.8 billion. This includes the 3.8 percent administrative fee the government charges to ensure timely delivery and guarantee the supplies.

The actual cost of the C-17 aircraft would be less as India would not be buying all the options that are offered with it and the 3.8 percent fee would be payable only on the actual amount of the deal. In some countries, the administrative fee ranges up to 18 percent.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, had said last year that it was looking for ten C-17s, described in its parlance as VHTAC, or Very Heavy Transport Aircraft, as a replacement for its ageing fleet of Soviet vintage IL-76 transports. He also spoke of a repeat order for 10 more aircraft.

The US Air Force has ordered 223 C-17s, of which 198 have been delivered. The aircraft, which first flew in 1991, was inducted in 1995.

Boeing plans to continue production for about five years to ensure deliveries to the US Air Force (24), the United Arab Emirates (six), Britain (seven) and India (10).

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