First two C-17s for India

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While Airbus looks to steal the military airlifter aspect of the 2013 Paris airshow with the first A400M for the French Air Force, the usual sight of U.S. airlifters at Le Bourget will be noticeable by their absence. However, despite the impact of sequestration on the standard U.S. military participation at the show, there is much marketing going on behind the scenes. Boeing is working hard to secure a further round of international sales to ensure continued production of C-17s beyond 2014.

The latest operator to join the C-17 club is India. By year end the Indian Air Force will have five C-17s in operation, half way towards its planned fleet of 10 by late 2014. This will make it the second largest operator of the Globemaster III after the U.S. Air Force which accepts its 223rd – and final – C-17 from Boeing in mid-September.

(all images by Guy Norris)

The first Indian Air Force aircraft was formally transferred from Boeing on June 11 and is the 254th C-17 to be delivered.  The aircraft was officially delivered to the IAF on Jan 22, but has remained in the US at Edwards AFB, Calif, where it has been used for crew training. The IAF C-17s will be operated from Hindon Air Force Station near Delhi by No. 81 Squadron alongside C-130Js flown by the recently-formed No.77 Squadron.

The IAF aircraft are titled in Hindi on the port side and English on the starboard

Officials at the delivery event would not comment on negotiations which are understood to be taking place over additional aircraft for India, though program sources indicate a potential decision is expected by year-end. Together with the recent delivery of the first Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to the Indian Navy, the C-17 handover is also symbolic of the country’s continuing transition to western suppliers away from its former reliance on Soviet-era Russian-made tactical transports and equipment.

Departing taxiway Juliet -- ready for take-off

The aircraft is also the 32nd C-17 to be sold to an international operator, and with no further Air Force acquisitions on the horizon, Boeing is in the midst of a major sales push to fill out its production slots for 2014 and beyond. “We have orders through the fall of 2014 and we’re talking with five to six potential customers. We are hopeful it will carry on for years to come,” says Boeing Vice President of business development for Mobility, Surveillance and Engagement, Tommy Dunehew.

The second C-17 for India is prepared for flight tests at Long Beach.

Although the company declines to comment on specific international customers in the pipeline, these are thought to include Kuwait, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, as well as potential follow-on sales to the existing customer group. In addition to India, this includes Australia, Canada, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, U.K. and the 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of NATO and Partnership for Peace countries. “Some are new and some are repeat,” says Dunehew who will only comment that the potential new business comes from “… the Middle East, Africa and Asia.”

IN01 -- With a farewell waggle of its wings the aircraft is off to its new home in India

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