#DefenseDiaries: All you need to know about IAF's C-17 airlifter
With India's growing status as a global power, comes the need for its military to demonstrate its presence far and wide. For such missions, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has acquired 10 strategic airlifts Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Since being commissioned by the IAF in 2013, the C-17 has airlifted troops, supplies, heavy vehicles, civilians, humanitarian aid etc. anywhere and everywhere. We explain.
The C-17 was developed to meet the US Air Force's (USAF) requirements for heavy-lift transport aircraft to replace the venerable C-130J Hercules plane. The C-17 made its maiden flight in 1991 and was inducted into the USAF in 1995. Currently, the US operates 223 out 274 manufactured C-17s. The rest are operated by the UK, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, India, and others.
India placed an order for 10 C-17s from the US at a cost of $4.1 billion in 2011. All 10 were delivered to India by 2014. They are based at the Hindon Air Force Station and operated by the No. 81 Squadron IAF Skylords.
The C-17 has the capability to lift loads of over 70-tons, nearly twice as much as IAF's Russian built Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft. It can operate in runways just 3,000-ft long and 90-ft wide. It can also take-off and land on unpaved runways. The C-17 can cover a 4,400-km distance while carrying 72-ton load. Its range can be increased by in-flight refuelling.
The C-17's cargo compartment can be easily customized to carry different kinds of loads. This includes heavy vehicles such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, missile systems, trucks, and cars. It can also carry Apache attack helicopters and seat over 100 passengers. Through its Container Delivery System, it can airdrop 40 containers (weighing one-ton each) or 102 battle ready paratroopers.
The IAF has deployed C-17 to transport supplies to high-altitude landing grounds in Leh and the distant Andaman Island of Port Blair. The C-17s have rescued Indian expats during the Yemeni Civil War in 2015. It has delivered humanitarian aid after the 2013 Cyclone Phailin, 2015 Nepal earthquake, 2015 Kashmir and Chennai floods, 2016 Sri Lanka floods, and other natural disasters.