India Defence quoted Air Chief S.P. Tyagi saying that “the IAF is planning to buy C-130J planes” for its special forces and Border Security Forces. Reports indicate that the IAF is particularly attracted to the C-130J’s ability to land and take off even in improvised or short airfields, and without lights. Those characteristics have served the Hercules well in other anti-terrorism scenarios like Operation Yonatan in Entebbe, and are now more routine maneuvers thanks to the C-130J Hercules’ modern avionics and increased engine power. DID has also noted the ‘J’ model’s good performance in “hot and high” conditions, which can reduce the useful load of older Hercules or similar transport aircraft by 50-60%.
The new planes will be bracketed by India’s larger Ilyushin IL-76 jet transports on the high end, and on the lower end by twin-engine Antonov AN-32 turboprops. India’s interest in the Hercules is quite specific to the Special Forces at the moment; but the plane’s capacity for additional specialty operations like aerial refueling both enhances those operations, and gives the IAF a number of additional employment options. The AN-32s are currently undergoing mid-life refurbishment, and a joint project with Russia’s Irkut looks set to develop a Hercules competitor in time for the AN-32’s replacement cycle.
Nevertheless, this deal is still a major inroad into the Indian market for Lockheed Martin – one that could develop further on a number of fronts. The contract is proceeding, and recently added advanced surveillance systems for the aircraft