The Indian Express newspaper reported the approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security is the country's biggest-ever defense deal, and would greatly facilitate the military's ability to transport personnel and equipment. The planes can carry cargo in paratroop operations and in humanitarian relief missions.
The C-17 Globemaster III is a four-engine aircraft with a range of about 2,800 miles. The report said the planes are to be delivered in the next four years.
Boeing will invest over $1 billion in the Indian domestic market as part of its offset obligations under India's procurement policy.
"This is the highest value single contract with a U.S. defense company," a Defense Ministry official was quoted saying.
The Los Angeles Times reported the order will extend work at Boeing's Long Beach, Calif., plant through 2014.
"We're still waiting on the signatures, but the deal is 99.9 percent," said Stan Klemchuk, president of the United Aerospace Workers local representing 1,600 workers at the plant. "Folks are buzzing in Long Beach. It gives us one more year of work and couldn't come at a better time."
The report said the C-17 has been used extensively for transporting supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan, and on humanitarian missions in Japan and elsewhere. The report said the Indian purchase could open a new business market as India itself may buy another six C-17s in the coming years.
"India will have the second-largest C-17 fleet in the world, behind that of the United States -- a highly visible manifestation of the U.S.-India defense partnership," a U.S. State Department spokesman said.
Ron Somers, president of the U.S.-India Business Council in Washington, said, "This is a testament to India's appreciation of U.S. technology and confidence in the U.S. as a long-term defense sales partner," the Press Trust of India reported.