Boeing has delivered the first of 10 C-17 Globemaster III airlifters to the Indian air force (IAF).

India’s first C-17 will now enter a U.S. Air Force flight test program at Edwards AFB in Palmdale, Calif., a senior Boeing official said Jan. 23.

India signed a $4.1 billion contract with the U.S. in 2011 to acquire the aircraft, making the country the largest C-17 export customer. The two governments finalized the Foreign Military Sales contract for the aircraft last June.

“Boeing is on track to deliver four more C-17s to the IAF this year and five in 2014,” says Dennis Swanson, vice president of international business development for Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) in India.

Although there are no options in the deal to buy additional aircraft, Boeing believes India may want six to 10 more C-17s in the future, Swanson tells Aviation Week. An Indian defense ministry official told Aviation Week last year that the Indian government may order another six C-17s after the first 10 are delivered.

Boeing will support the IAF C-17 fleet through the Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) performance-based logistics contract. The GISP “virtual fleet” arrangement provides all C-17 customers access to a global support network for parts. This brings spares and support closer to the point of use, enables economies of scale and makes the C-17 more affordable to own and operate, according to Nan Bouchard, Boeing’s C-17 program manager.

The IAF currently has about 20 Russian-origin IL-76 aircraft, with its medium-lift fleet comprising 104 Russian AN-32s. The IL-76 can ferry around 45 tons, while the four-engine C-17 has a rear-loading ramp and can handle a payload of up to 164,900 lb. The aircraft also can take off from a 7,000-ft. airstrip and land on a small, unprepared airfield of 3,000 ft. or less, Boeing officials say.

C-17 photo: NASA