India aims to evaluate the Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport next month to meet a requirement for up to 12 special forces aircraft. Industry sources say the C-130J will make its Indian debut at the Aero India 2005 exhibition in Bangalore from 9-13 February and will then fly to the capital New Delhi for an evaluation by the Indian armed forces.

India has held preliminary talks with Lockheed over the last few years and the latter believes detailed negotiations could begin after next month's demonstration of a US-operated C-130J. India is looking to acquire six to 12 aircraft for a special forces unit tasked with counter-terrorism missions. There are no other candidates for the requirement and a decision could take place later this year, although sources note that India's military procurement process is often protracted.

New Delhi has also begun evaluating potential replacements for its Antonov An-32 transports. Lockheed does not plan to enter this contest unless it can first sell C-130Js for the special forces requirement, because it believes cheaper and less- capable Russian aircraft could be acquired to replace the An-32s.

US manufacturers, however, are optimistic that they can win a requirement for eight maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), and industry sources say the Indian and US governments are discussing a potential deal to supply eight Lockheed P-3C Orions from the US Navy's excess inventory. Lockheed would support the refurbishment and upgrade of the aircraft, with some work to be sourced to India's Hindustan Aeronautics. But India also plans to consider proposals from other MPA manufacturers. A decision on whether to pursue a government-to-government or commercial deal is expected this year.


Source: Flight International