The first of the six C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force is expected to begin flight trials in a few weeks. All six airframes are on the manufacturing rigs at their American manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s facilities. A spokesperson for Lockheed, in response to a query, stated that the first aircraft is expected to be ready for its maiden test flight by mid-summer.
All six aircrafts, he added, would be fully assembled by Spring 2011, with the first aircraft scheduled to be delivered to the IAF in December this year, he added. The aircraft and others following it, according to sources, would undergo further test flights and familiarisation operations in the Indian environment, before being formally commissioned into service early next year.
It would be after about five decades that the IAF would be inducting a US military aircraft. The IAF has been operating American Boeing 737s for some time, but these have no military role and are dedicated solely for VVIP transport. The IAF has operated US B-24 bombers and Dakota and Packet transport aircraft for a few years after independence and at present the mainstay of its transport fleet has been of the Soviet origin.

The vastly improved “J” version of the C-130 features a stretched fuselage to accommodate more troops and cargo than the earlier versions of the four-engined turboprop that date back to 1957. The IAF versions have a maximum payload of about 24 tonne, almost four times that of the AN-32 tactical transporter and could accommodate 128 combat troops, 92 paratroopers or 97 medical litters.
Configured for special mission roles, C-130J has been equipped with an infrared detection set that would enable precision low-level flying, airdrops and landing in blackout conditions. The armed forces had first displayed their low-level airdrop capability during Exercise Brazen Chariots in Pokhran two years ago. The C-130s would primarily support airlift and para-drop of the Army’s special forces.
A new digital avionics architecture and propulsion system and dual mission computers that automate many functions, thereby reducing aircrew compliment, self-protection systems to ensure aircraft survivability in hostile air defence environments and air-to-air receiver refueling capability for extended range operations are prominent features of the “J”.
The C-130s has been expected to be based at the Hindon Air Force Station adjacent to Delhi, where a new squadron for this type would be raised. Initially, the Lockheed would train the IAF aircrew and ground technicians posted to the new outfit.

BY: Tribune News Service