'Contract For Six More C-130Js Definite'

An Indian government contract for six more American-built C-130J-30 Super Hercules tactical transport airplanes is "definite" according to an Indian Air Force official on the secretariat of the Air Marshal who oversees procurement. Lockheed-Martin began the effort to get India to exercise options on the original March 2008 contract shortly after it was signed, though the IAF had identified a need for at least 18 such airplanes.

The officer, who asked not to be named, told me, "The view is you cannot achieve very much with six aircraft. There has to be a minimum number for effective squadron service. This has been agreed upon between us and the Government. It is only a question of when they choose to exercise the option. It is an FMS deal, so there will obviously be some diplomatic leverage. As far as we are concerned, we know we are getting the additional airplanes."

I asked the officer if the IAF had expressed an interest in operating more than 12 C-130s. His response: "Let's be very clear -- the 20-ton airlifter type is going to be extremely useful to our air maintenance operations across the board. The C-130s are coming. We will have 12 of them. We will make good use of them. But we will also have the MRTA from early 2017 if all goes according to plan. We cannot ignore that project, since we are investing over $300-million in that. We can certainly operate more than 12 C-130s, but we have to rationalize types."

Either way, it is unlikely that a follow-on contract for six additional C-130Js will be signed before next year. Lockheed-Martin will again be bringing a USAF C-130J to AeroIndia 2011 next February, and is working with the IAF to show off its first C-130J (scheduled to arrive days before the Bangalore show begins) for the first time at AeroIndia.

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