India displays new C-130s on Republic Day
The Indian Air Force displayed its latest major acquisition on Jan. 26, the Lockheed Martin C-130J military air transport, also known as the Super Hercules, in its annual Republic Day fly-past over the Rajpath complex in New Delhi.
Three C-130J’s took part in the annual air pageant, which this year totaled 29 aircraft. It was the first time in decades that any American-built aircraft had taken part in the Republic Day flyby, which commemorates Britain’s legal granting and recognition of India’s sovereign independence on Jan. 26, 1930 [full independence came nearly 18 years later on August 15, 1947].
But the participation of the Super Hercules in the Republic Day celebrations was far more than just symbolic. India recently purchased six C-130J’s for a combined price of about $1 billion. The deal was one of the largest aerospace agreements ever made between India and the United States. It confirmed the growing defense ties between the world’s two largest democracies.
It also gave India’s air force and Special Forces an urgently needed new capability for rapid military airlifts to anywhere in the country and for the rapid undertaking of Special Operations for internal security.
"The Indian Air Force is happy to induct the C-130J Super Hercules, the most potent and versatile aircraft in its class," said Air Chief Marshal PV Naik during a ceremony marking the delivery of the first plane. "It is an important milestone in transformation of the IAF that is presently underway. The IAF will fly an American aircraft after a gap of more than two decades after the Super Connie, and it is a historic moment for both countries." The last U.S. aircraft flown by the Indian Air Force was a Lockheed Super Constellation.
Lockheed Martin officials applauded India’s decision to add the planes to its military fleet.
“There are few mottos that impart such passion as that of the Indian Air Force, which is Touch the Sky With Glory,” said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin's vice president for C-130 Programs.
The C-130 is one of the oldest-designed military aircraft operating in the world today. It is one of only four military aircraft types in the world still to be operating more than 50 years after it first flew. [The others are the Soviet/Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber and the U.S. Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber.]
Israel used a C-130 to carry out its legendary July 4, 1976, Entebbe rescue operation.
The C-130 is the only military aircraft in the history of the U.S. Air Force that has been in continuous production for more than 50 years. It has 40 different models by more than 60 countries and remains in service with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps.
The C-130 first flew on Aug. 23, 1954. However, the aircraft’s all-around capabilities, robust construction and cost effectiveness continue to make it a favorite for air forces all around the world. The latest J version which the IAF bought has been in production since the 1990s and has state-of-the-art avionics and high-tech equipment.
The C-130J Super Hercules has a range of 2,360 miles [3,800 kilometers] and can carry up to 92 passengers or 64 fully equipped troops. It can carry a payload of up to 45,000 pounds or 20,000 kilograms. It can also carry in a single load two or three Humvees or two M113 armored personnel carriers [APCs]. By July 2010, 200 C-130Js had been built. The C-130J has a cruising speed of 336 miles per hour [mph] or 540 kilometers per hour [km/h] and a maximum speed of 366 mph, or 592 km/h.
Its four six-bladed, Allison T56 A-15 turboprop engines make it vastly more fuel efficient and therefore cheaper to fly than more modern jet-powered aircraft. They also give it the capability to land on short and grass runways.
The C-130J can take off in only 3,586 feet, or 1,093 meters with a gross take-off weight, including payload, of 155,000 pounds or 70,000 kilograms. It can take off in only 1,400 feet, or 427 meters, with a gross take-off weight 80,000 pounds or 36,300 kilograms.
This extremely flexible take-off and landing capability is of enormous importance in India. Special Operations forces and military airlifts can be required all around the vast, almost sub-continent sized nation and in many areas where no runways exist that are large and hard enough to accommodate India’s traditional main military air transport, the Soviet/Russian, jet-powered Ilyushin Il-76.
This shortcoming was critically highlighted during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 200 people. Indian Special Forces were critically delayed in flying elite, specially trained troops and their equipment to Mumbai in time to play any significant role in the crisis because no Il-76 was available at short notice and airlift capability did not exist from centers with airfields that the Il-76s could operate from.
The versatile C-130 also serves effectively as a general military air transport work horse. The aircraft are rugged, stable and easy to fly. They have a remarkable safety record.
The J version is effective for operating in and being resistant to the hot and humid environment in India. It can operate from improvised airfields and without lights. The increased engine power of the J model means that it does not lose up to 50 percent or 60 percent of its airlift capability as many more recent jet-powered air transports do when they have to operate in “hot and heavy” environments.
The new C-130Js also offer the IAF the flexibility to undertake a variety of other roles. The Super Hercules can operate as a ground-support gunship, [in its AS-130 version], a search and rescue aircraft and for maritime patrols. Its 2,300 mile range, in-flight endurance time of more than seven hours and great payload capacity make it particularly attractive for these roles.
The C-130J can also serve as an air refueling tanker, a scientific research support aircraft and a medical evacuation role. It enjoys a universal reputation as being cheap and easy to maintain.
Lockheed Martin executives are optimistic that the experience of operating its first six C-130Js will make the Indian Air Force eager to buy more.