India inks C-130J deal with the USA

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India has signed a letter of offer and acceptance with the USA for the purchase of six Lockheed Martin C-130Js, with the $1 billion contract stipulating that all aircraft should be delivered by the end of 2011. The aircraft will come with lifetime maintenance support, plus ground support and handling equipment.

New Delhi also has options on another six C-130Js, which will be used to support operations involving its special forces personnel and be equipped with missile and radar warning systems.

This is the first major military contract between the countries for more than 40 years. Russia has supplied 70% of India's arms, but New Delhi has been seeking diverse sources in recent years as it modernises its armed forces.

Upcoming contracts include a tender for 126 multirole combat aircraft and more than 300 light utility helicopters for its army and air force. Both involve major Russian, US and western European bidders.

Lockheed has sold over 2,300 C-130s to 67 countries since 1954. The C-130J requires only three crew members for most missions, with current operators including Australia, Denmark, Italy, the UK and the USA, with Canada and Norway also having recently ordered the type.