The much-awaited order for the American C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force will be cleared this month. The IAF's order for 10 aircraft is expected to cost some Rs. 18,000 crore (roughly $4 billion).

The Ministry of Defence has given the go-ahead for the purchase of these aircraft from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales (government-to-government) route.

Sources in the government told The Hindu that the Defence Ministry had forwarded the file to the Ministry of Finance before it was taken to the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval. The deal was expected to be cleared “within this month.”

The U.S was pushing for the deal — originally estimated to cost up to $5.8 billion — to be ready by the time President Barack Obama visited India in November last year. However, price and offsets issues held it up. And, on his part, President Obama mentioned India's intention to but these aircraft for some $4.1 billion.

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster will augment the IAF's inventory, which recently went up with the induction of the C130J Super Hercules transport aircraft from another U.S. company Lockheed Martin. These aircraft would allow the IAF to swiftly move a greater number of troops and materials than its existing transport fleet of AN-32 and Il-76 ‘Gajraj,' inducted more than two decades ago.

While the U.S. may have been “deeply disappointed” at having lost the race for the Rs. 45,000-crore 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft, the IAF and the Indian Navy together have ordered or in the process of buying aircraft worth $9 billion from the two American defence aviation majors.

Two years ago, India ordered eight long-range maritime patrol aircraft P8I at $2.1 billion, and there has already been talk of a follow-up order for four more aircraft. Boeing is developing the P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. and has offered the Indian Navy a variant of it.

These purchases are in addition to the CB105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons for the IAF ordered from Textron Defense Systems, valued at $380 million. Trials are under way for the purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzer Field Guns from the BEA Systems.

There has been much criticism of the Defence Ministry's tendency to buy military hardware from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales route, instead of a multi-vendor bidding process. The Ministry reasons that this policy is dictated by the urgent need of the forces for such equipment.

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