The Air Force inducted its largest ever aircraft,the C-17 strategic lift transporter,into service Monday giving it the capability of shifting forces between war theatres at a rapid pace and rushing troops to remotely located forward areas in Ladakh and the North-East at short notice.
The C-17 Globemaster-III,designed to rapidly despatch 70 ton of cargo or close to 150 fully equipped troops across a range of 4,200 km,will be operated from advanced landing grounds along the India-China border,including the worlds highest airfield of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) that lies at over 16,600 feet.
Defence Minister A K Antony described the induction as a defining moment for the Air Force. With this,the IAF has taken a giant stride towards its goal of acquiring multi- spectrum strategic capabilities,essential to safeguard Indias growing areas of interest, he said.
The Air Force has received three of the 10 Boeing C-17s on order from the US and has raised a new squadron No. 81 Sky Lords that will be based at the Hindon airfield near the Capital. The rest of the seven aircraft are expected to join duty by the end of next year and the Air Force is also looking at placing an order for an additional six aircraft to meet its requirements.
The C-17 fleet will provide tremendous flexibility in terms of operational response options in any future campaign. The long range,heavy lift capability will allow the Commanders to induct troops,Squadrons,re-locate forces as well as shift forces between theatres rapidly, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said at the induction ceremony at Hindon.
The aircraft can be used for inducting troops or cargo at areas that are cut off for a major part of the year by land due to the inhospitable terrain. An example would be DBO where at present An 32 and C 130 J aircraft are operated to deliver cargo and troops. The C-17 would tremendously increase the capability to induct fighting troops at the landing strip. The C-17 can also land on airfields such as the DBO. It needs only 3,500 feet to land whether it is hinterland or border. Wherever it is required,we will send it, the Air