India is likely to opt for an additional six of the C-17s after the contract is signed for the first lot of 10 aircraft as the IAF is keen on increasing its heavy-lift capability
The Government has approved its biggest defence deal with the US for 10 Boeing C-17 strategic heavy-lift planes for USD 4.1 billion, in a major step to augment the capability of its air force to swiftly move troops and equipment over long distances.
The clearance comes over six months after US President Barack Obama visited India and announced that the deal was through.
The US Congress had approved the sale of the fully loaded aircraft for USD 5.8 billion under the Foreign Military Sales government-to-government route last June. However, since India is yet to ink a key military pact with the US, the aircraft might come without some critical communication.
India is likely to opt for an additional six of the C-17s after the contract is signed for the first lot of 10 aircraft as the IAF is keen on increasing its heavy-lift capability, the officer added.
At present, the IAF has a dozen Soviet-era IL-76 'Gajraj' aircraft for heavy-lift roles and a medium-lift fleet of over 100 AN-32 aircraft, also of Soviet origin.
The US Air Force, to showcase the C-17s capabilities, had flown Obama's security paraphernalia, including armour-plated cars and helicopters, on the aircraft. It had also brought the aircraft for India-US Cope-India air exercise in 2009.
Boeing is also in contention for IAF's requirement for 22 attack helicopters and another 15 heavylift helicopters. Both tenders are expected to be finalised by India this fiscal before March 31, 2012.