The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday inducted its latest acquisition from the United States of America, the C130J Super Hercules tactical airlift transport aircraft at the Hindan airbase here with Defence Minister A.K. Antony handing over the ceremonial key at a brief function.

The aircraft, the first of the six that India ordered from the U.S. Government, will be based at the newly raised 77 squadron named ‘Veiled Vipers’, with the motto “Kill with Stealth”, signifying the capability of the aircraft to undertake deployment of special forces in all-weather conditions.

Mr. Antony said the formidable aircraft joining the IAF fleet would add more muscle to the force and help in its modernisation. He said the government is fully committed to provide the latest and best equipment and will not spare any effort to ensure the IAF to retain its qualitative edge.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik described the Super Hercules as the most potent and versatile aircraft as the IAF moves towards maintaining aerospace dominance. He said after a gap of over two decades, the IAF inducted an American military aircraft into its inventory.

The aircraft is capable of airdropping personnel and material even in complete darkness, as it is equipped with night vision imaging. It can also land on unprepared or semi-prepared landing strips and has self-protection to operate in hostile environments.

It is capable of undertaking low-level air-to-air refuelling that enhances the aircrafts range and rapid forward basing of personnel and equipment in emergent situations.

Diverse uses

In wartime, the aircraft can be employed for special air operations, airborne operations, air transported operations, air supply and maintenance operations. During peacetime, its roles include operations and maintenance in mountainous terrain in adverse circumstances and humanitarian assistance.

IAF pilots, who were trained in various U.S. Air Force bases, flew the plan to India. The squadron will be headed by Group Captain Tejbir Singh. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the delivery of the rest of the five aircrafts will happen in phases through this year. The contract for these aircraft was signed in 2008, estimated to cost under $ 1.2 billion under the Foreign Military Sales programme.

While there are reports that the IAF plans to acquire six more C130 J Super Hercules aircraft, the Minister did not make any categorical announcement besides stating that the present number is not enough for the Force, which needs more transport aircraft.

The U.S. Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer, Chief of Air Staff of U.S. Air Force General Norton A. Schwartz, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne and the Chief of Western Air Command Air Marshal D.C. Kumaria, officials from the U.S Embassy and top brass of the IAF attended the event.