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The IAF has put in place the necessary infrastructure for housing the largest aircraft in its fleet yet-- the Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III-- at the Hindon airbase near Delhi and now final touches are being given for its arrival in mid of June. The facility created for the aircraft is swranky and comparable to the US airbases, said an officer. 

And the ‘beast’ will roughly have double the capacity of the Russian made Ilyushin IL-76s which they are set to replace. Compared to the 20-odd Il-76 which can ferry around 45 tonnes of load, the C-17 is capable of transporting 70 tonnes of load-- military hardware and troops-- to even small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world, day or night.

“Infrastructure development has started at the Hindon airbase. Boeing - the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) is building the facilities like hangars and crew room for the aircraft and the unit operating it,” sources said.

The C-17s will be the second unit of the strategic airlifters to be based at the Natironal Capital Region (NCR). Earlier, a squadron of Lockheed Martin C-130 J aircraft was stationed at Hindon in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to facilitate quick movement of troops and weapons and to air drop them when ever the need arose.

The aircraft, meanwhile, is wide enough to accommodate two trucks side by side and can carry two-three helicopters easily. The IAF was looking at a heavy lifter that can operate from short runways like Kargil. And the C-17s impressed the IAF during field trials as it took off from the Kangra airport by using only 1500 feet of the runway just after touchdown. Just like its American cousin, the C-130 Js, the C-17s can also taxi in reverse gear when required.

“As the first of the aircraft will be ready by January 2013, the training of the IAF pilots has also begun,” sources added. New Delhi had signed a mammoth $4.1 billion contract, one of the largest bilateral defence deals ever inked with Washington, to purchase the 10 C-17s. As a result, the IAF will be operating one of the largest C-17 fleets in the world after the US Air Force.

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