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AERO INDIA: Newly-inducted C-130J makes public debut

Among the high-profile debutants on show this week is the first US-produced aircraft to have entered Indian air force use in more than two decades.

The first of the service's at least six Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports is so new that it barely had time to touch the ground at Hindon air base near New Delhi last week before taking its starring role at Aero India. The type was inducted into service on 5 February after arriving from the US company's Marietta production site in Georgia.

To be used by the air force's 77 Sqn - the "Veiled Vipers" - to support special forces operations, India's C-130Js have a third crew station on the flight deck for a combat system operator, and will gain a FLIR Systems forward-looking infrared sensor to be mounted beneath the transport's nose.

© Billypix

Hailing the arrival of the new-generation Hercules, Indian air force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal P V Naik describes the event as "an important milestone in the transformation of the IAF that is presently underway". The stretched-fuselage C-130J-30 is the service's first US aircraft since it retired its last Lockheed Super Constellation transports more than 20 years ago.

All six of India's Rolls-Royce AE2100-engined transports will be delivered this year under a $1.2 billion acquisition, while the nation is expected to issue a letter of request soon for another six of the type.

India's ongoing airlift expansion effort could also include a deal for 10 Boeing C-17 strategic transports, plus the multi-role transport aircraft being developed by Indian companies in conjunction with Russian partners.

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