NEW DELHI, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- India's first two Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules aircraft will be flown from the United States to their home base at Hindon early next year.
Lockheed Martin handed over the first C-130J to the Indian air force earlier this month as part of an order for six aircraft. The $1.2 billion U.S. Foreign Military Sale -- India's first -- was signed in late 2008 at the DefExpo exhibition in New Delhi.
It was a breakthrough at the time for Lockheed Martin into India's military transport market.
"There are few mottos that impart such passion as that of the Indian air force, which is 'Touch the Sky with Glory'," Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin's vice president for C-130 Programs, said during the handover of the first aircraft. "Today begins a new glorious, enduring partnership with India as the fourth largest air force in the world proudly joins the worldwide C-130 family."
The first aircraft ran its four Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines equipped with Dowty six-blade propellers in September ahead of its maiden flight in October at Lockheed's hangar in Marietta, Ga.
The contract stipulates 80 percent availability of the C-130J fleet at any given time. To ensure this, Lockheed must supply an extensive support package to India because no infrastructure exists to maintain and repair the aircraft.
Support functions and programs include crew training and maintenance technicians, spares, ground support and test equipment, servicing carts, forklifts, loading vehicles and cargo pallets.
Lockheed also will supply a team of technical specialists based in India for the three-year initial support period at Hindon Air Force Base in Uttar Pradesh state which borders Nepal to the north.
Much of the on-board electronic equipment is Indian-designed and Indian-manufactured but contracts also have been signed with Western avionics firms, including FLIR Systems.
In August 2009 FLIR Systems received a $ 7.2 million U.S. Foreign Military Sale order to equip the planes with its AAQ-22 Star Safire III electro-optical/infrared sensors. FLIR Systems will also give training and other related services along with its Star SAFIRE(R) III infrared multi-sensor surveillance systems.
The first plane is to arrive in India just ahead of the Aero India Air Show Feb. 9-13 in Bangalore. The C-130J is set to be on show at the biannual event in the southwestern state of Karnataka.
India is buying the C-130J aircraft to replace its medium-lift AN-32 aircraft for use by the Special Forces units. Users include the country's border police that deal with hostage takings and terrorist incidents.
The air force has 100 of the AN-32 transport aircraft, designed by Antanov and manufactured by Aviant in the latter years of the Soviet Union. The plane had its maiden flight in 1976 and the Indian air force recently did an emergency upgrade on its fleet, as well as to some heavier IL-76 aircraft, to extend their life by 10 to 20 years.
The Indian air force's shopping list includes a confirmed order in March for an initial 10 Boeing heavy-lift C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to replace its IL-76 transporters.
India bought IL-76 aircraft in the 1980s and operates fewer than 20 of the planes. It has a 45-ton cargo capacity with a crew of six. The C-17 carries 70 tons and needs a crew of three and one person can operate the heavy-lift hydraulics for cargo handling.