Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013 | Date : 09 Apr , 2013
C-130J Super Hercules
In the context of a resurgent and globalised economy, India’s security interests in the future would no longer be confined to its national boundaries or be limited to the region between the Gulf of Aden to the Strait of Malacca but would have even a larger international footprint. Besides, India has entered into a strategic partnership with the lone superpower, the US. The rising status of the nation will surely be accompanied by new responsibilities for maintaining peace and stability in the region or undertake military intervention in different parts of the world either on its own or in collaboration with the strategic partner. Inter-operability of transport forces of the IAF with those of the US Air Force will, therefore, be an important dimension in the plans for modernisation.
Over the years since its inception, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has evolved both in size and shape in keeping with the demands of national security and the rising status of the nation. However, quite understandably, the thrust of modernisation programmes in the IAF has generally been focused on enhancement of combat capability. This has been achieved through the induction of fleets of new generation top-of-the-line fighter aircraft that fly at higher speeds, have larger operating radii and are equipped with better avionics as also with the most potent aerial weapon systems. And rightly so, as the combat capability of the IAF is a critical and an indispensable component of air power which, in turn, is an important constituent of national military power.
The thrust of modernisation programmes in the IAF has generally been focused on enhancement of combat capability.
On the other hand, when compared with the combat fleet, efforts at modernisation in the transport aircraft segment of the IAF have been of a relatively lower order. Since the birth of the IAF, the transport fleet has been strengthened now and then through the acquisition of military transport aircraft from abroad. These included aircraft such as the C47 Dakota, the C119 Fairchild Packet, the Russian AN12 and a few de Havilland DHC4 Caribou from Canada. All these aircraft were in the ‘tactical’ category and many of them were refurbished old airplanes. However, beginning in the 1960s, the IAF inducted a fleet of 64 new Hawker Siddeley HS 748 Avro twin-turboprop transport aircraft of five-tonne payload capacity. Bulk of this fleet was produced indigenously under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at its facility at Kanpur.
Although originally designed for civilian use, the Avro was employed by the military as well, essentially to ferry passengers. The intrinsic design of the aircraft was not suited for military tasks such as delivery of para-troopers or air supplies. The Indian version, however, had modified cargo doors for loading of military cargo such as light vehicles and was also used for delivery of para-troops. Though obsolete, the fleet of 50 odd Avro aircraft continues to linger in service with the IAF.