Sun, 06 Feb 2011 08:19:34 GMT

Super Hercules joins IAF sans muscles

Hindon (Ghaziabad): The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday inducted an American-made C-130J-30 Super Hercules airlifter to boost its special operations capability, but the aircraft is without critical equipment as India has not signed a crucial pact with the US for communications inter-operability.


The aircraft, first of the six that India ordered from the US for $950 million in 2008, was formally handed over to Group Captain Tejbir Singh, the first commanding officer of IAF's newly-created 77 Squadron, by Defence Minister A.K. Antony here.

The Lockheed Martin-manufactured C-130J is the first military aircraft inducted by India from the US through the foreign military sales routes in decades. The other five aircraft are scheduled for delivery one after the other by the end of this year.

The plane was flown by an IAF crew to India from Lockheed Martin's manufacturing facility at Marietta in Georgia, US. The new squadron will be nicknamed as Veiled Vipers with a motto "strike to kill".

Replying to a question about the equipment on the aircraft with India not signing the Communications Interoperability and Security Memoradum of Agreement (CISMOA) with the US, Antony said the government would not buy any equipment for its armed forces "with strings attached" to it. "Our air force can operate them," he said.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said the pact was for communicating with American platforms and not signing it would not make much difference. "We have our own communication system and yes, we will be integrating them on the aircraft. They are already being made and they will be put on the aircraft," he added.

At the induction ceremony attended by US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer and US Air Force (USAF) chief General Norton A. Schwartz, Antony said it was a red letter day for the IAF and the C-130J would "add more muscle" to the air force to meet its growing mandate.

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