India has decided to buy six more C-130J Super Hercules Special Operations aircraft from the United States despite the on-going diplomatic row with Washington over the arrest of an Indian woman diplomat by American police in New York last week, said local media Friday.
Defence ministry sources said the “letter of offer and acceptance” for the six new four-engine C-130Js, which will be delivered within three years, was signed on Friday under the US government’s “foreign military sales” (FMS) programme.
The Indian Air Force already has a fleet of six similar planes which are deployed at the Hindan air base near New Delhi and uses it for carrying out special operations including landing at the inhospitable air strips.
The new lot of six planes will be located at Panagarh in West Bengal, eastern India, said the news agency.
The decision to buy the additional six aircraft was taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) – the highest decision making body on purchases of the Ministry of Defence – today. The DAC also cleared the acquisition of another 230 odd Russian made T-90 tanks at a cost of Rs. 6000 crore. These will be produced by the Heavy Vehicles Factory Avadi in Tamil Nadu.
Panagarh is the Headquarters of the newly created Mountain Strike Corps. The C-130J Hercules aircraft can carry about 20 tons at one go and has ability to land at make-shift landing strips.
“With its ability to land almost anywhere, the additional C-130J will give the Mountain Strike Corps ability to move around troops and rush reinforcements along the front at a very short notice,” a senior Ministry of Defence official said. Recently the C-130J Hercules landed at the Daualt Beg Oldie Advanced Landing ground in Ladakh creating a world record of sorts for this category of transport planes.