Sandeep Dikshit

Over $1 billion contract for supply of 6 aircraft to improve troop transport capacity

Plan to buy 6 more Super Hercules C-130J — an all-weather aircraft

It is meant for demanding and special operations

NEW DELHI: In a quiet ceremony, India and the United States signed their biggest-ever arms deal estimated at over $1 billion (Rs. 3,943 crore) on January 30.

The letter of acceptance (LoA) stipulates the supply of six aircraft, infrastructure, spares and spare engines. This would improve the capability of the armed forces to be moved and evacuated quickly from crises locations in any type of weather from makeshift runways. Sources said, if necessary, India could purchase six more of the Super Hercules C-130J aircraft.

The purchase of the aircraft under a government-to-government deal called the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme will enable the Special Forces to move quickly to the scene of action. Although India has several large Russian-origin troop transport planes, the C-130J is said to be fitted with advanced avionics and has several other additional capabilities.

Advanced self-defence

According to the aircraft’s manufacturers, Lockheed Martin, the C-130J is equipped with low probability of intercept radar, advanced self-defence systems and enhanced situational awareness from the head-up displays and moving maps. It is meant for demanding special operations and combat search and rescue missions.

They further claim that with increased range, payload and speed, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) C-130Js perform missions in a single day in south-west Asia (Afghanistan and Iraq) that historically took two days or more. The USAF supports peacekeeping missions in Africa in less than half the time and one-third the fuel as a C-130E.

Ever since the military ties with the U.S. went on an upswing after 2001, India has signed three military deals with the U.S. It first bought weapon (artillery battery) locating radars manufactured by Raytheon and then contracted for equipment for the Special Forces.

The third contract was for a ship, INS Jalashwa (earlier USS Trenton), for landing troops and equipment on beaches. The second biggest ship in the Navy’s armada, like the C-130J, INS Jalashwa also enables the dispatch of a large number of troops to coastal areas and island territories.

However, a few months after its induction, a toxic gas leak killed five sailors and incapacitated three others, including two officers. The Navy is investigating the accident. India has now set its eyes on another second hand ship of the same specifications.

Offset clause

The contract for troop transport aircraft will be subject to the offset clause put in place for all defence import deals worth over Rs.300 crore. In other words, the supplier company would have to provide sub-contracts and make investments worth about Rs.1,300 crore. Details of how the company will go about fulfilling the offset obligation are being negotiated.

“The C-130J is a battle-proven, reliable and affordable air-lifter. In production and available, the C-130J meets the growing worldwide need for airlift with multi-mission capability and continues to evolve through upgrades designed to meet many operational requirements. The C-130J has conducted combat re-supply and troop deployment since 2002. The aircraft’s range and payload under high or hot conditions make it the backbone of tactical airlift,” say its makers.

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