India is now set to snap up the world’s last available C-17 heavy transport aircraft after a last-minute approval by the defence ministry last week, two years after a special request was made to Washington to reserve the plane.
A meeting of the defence acquisition committee (DAC) headed by minister Nirmala Sitharaman cleared the procurement that will take the total number of the transport aircraft in the Indian Air Force to 11.
US manufacturer Boeing has shut down the production line after producing 279 aircraft and the last C-17 Globemaster had more than one global contender given its unique role as a large airlifter optimised for special operations, humanitarian assistance missions and carrying troops over large distances.
The lone aircraft is likely to cost India over Rs 2,700 crore and could arrive within a few months after the formal signing of the contract. The plane is being bought under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or direct government purchase route from Washington.
With the clearance, the defence ministry will now send a formal ‘letter of acceptance’ (LOA) to confirm the sale.
As reported by ThePrint, India had lobbied hard to get the last plane since 2015 but bureaucratic red tape had created the possibility of the aircraft being taken up by another buyer. Sources said that the aircraft – which has been produced and kept mothballed – will be prepped up and will go through a set of tests before being delivered.
In 2015, the Air Force had cleared a proposal to buy three of the heavy lifters at a cost of Rs 8,100 crore but as procurement process dragged on, its manufacturer Boeing ran out of aircraft to sell as the C-17 production line was shut down.
In 2011, India had bought 10 aircraft for $4.7 billion. The contract also had a follow-on option clause to procure six more aircraft. However, with limited resources available, the Air Force had asked for an additional three, impressed by its operational abilities.