More U.S. Airlifters for India; Helicopter Orders Imminent

 - July 1, 2011, 6:51 AM

The commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF) said that the IAF would likely acquire at least six more Boeing C-17s and another six Lockheed Martin C-130J airlifters. The first two of six C-130Js already ordered by the IAF have been delivered, and the order for an initial 10 C-17s has been finalized, according to ACM P. V. Naik, who was interviewed for the latest edition of India Strategic magazine.

Naik also said that the selection of new attack, heavy-lift and utility helicopters was imminent. The Boeing AH-64D Apache and the Mil Mi-28N are competing for the attack requirement, while the Boeing CH-47D and the Mil Mi-26T are the contenders for the heavy-lift requirement. The AgustaWestland AW119, Eurocopter AS550 and Kamov Ka-226 are the candidates to fill the light utility helicopter (LUH) requirement.

Naik also commented on the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) selection process. Regarding the elimination of the F-16, F-18, Gripen and Mig-29, he said, “Let’s just say that the two European finalists were the most compliant in the 600-plus parameters that the IAF selection team had set.”  Naik predicted that the Indian Ministry of Defence would open the commercial tenders submitted by Team Rafale and Eurofighter in mid-June, but it would take “a couple of months” to evaluate the support, training and offset packages and the life cycle costs.

In late June, India selected the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II to answer its requirement for a basic trainer. The procurement of the new aircraft was hastened by the grounding of the piston-powered HAL HPT-32 Deepak fleet in July 2009, following 17 crashes. While waiting for the new trainer to enter service, India’s pilots have begun their instruction in the jet-powered HAL Kiran Mk II or BAE Systems Hawk advanced trainers.