The Indian Air Force is set to receive its final delivery of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift jet within the third quarter of 2019, bringing the total fleet of the aircraft to 11, reports Livefist. The last unit will cost India $262 million.
The aircraft produced at Boeing’s facility at Long Beach, California is presently being fitted with specific systems designed for India at San Antonio in Texas. It will be inducted as part of the air force’s 81 Squadron, also known as ‘Sky Lords’ by August or September this year.
India had to contend with Qatar and Australia to purchase the final piece, even as the Air Force had initially wanted at least three more of the aircraft.
The contract for the C-17 aircraft was signed a few months prior to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the US, so even as the last aircraft, similar to the ones procured before it, will be delivered without certain pieces of encrypted communication equipment such as the SINCGARS radio system and the TACTERM secure voice terminal, India can still decide to retrofit such equipment.
The C-17 comes with remarkable logistical capacity, and it has been an initial challenge for the Indian Air Force to figure out how to use the aircraft with optimal efficiency.
“It’s a pity we couldn’t contract for more of these jets. They’ve been in service for five years, and we’ve slowly learnt their true worth. There were hiccups initially, since there were times when the fleet would be engaged quite uneconomically. But that has completely changed now. The logistical flight matrix is still being evolved, but the C-17 has pride of place in the scheme of things. We could have definitely done with more aircraft — at least another squadron,” stated a senior Air Force official.