India may have to pay more for C-17 airlifters: Boeing

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NEW DELHI - The 10 Boeing C-17 heavy airlifters the Indian Air Force (IAF) wants to buy could cost much more than the $4.1 billion initially tagged, Boeing says, a sure sign that hard bargaining is on the cards.

The figure of $4.1 million is not supportable, Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, told reporters here Tuesday, pointing out that the US Congress had accorded approval for a deal worth $5.8 billion.

When Congressional approval was sought for the deal under the foreign military sales (FMS) route it was for a fully-loaded aircraft, Chadwick explained. Theoretically, the cost could be lower but so would be its capabilities.

There has to be a government-to-government discussion. They have to decide what they want from the capability perspective, Chadwick added.

The C-17 purchase was among the big ticket deals valued at $10-15 billion that US President Barack Obama announced Saturday on the first day of his four-day visit to India that concluded early Tuesday.

According to Chadwick, the IAF order would create 20,000 jobs across 44 US states.

The IAF had zeroed in on the C-17 after a thorough study because of its capability to take off and land on short runways with heavy loads, long range and ease of operation. Price negotiations are now underway, and Chadwick said the IAF’s letter of acceptance (LOA) was expected soon with the final deal to be clinched sometime in 2011.

The figure of $4.1 billion is a random figure taken off the net, Chadwick said.

When it was pointed out that the figure had been posted on the White House website, he retorted: Then you must ask the White House. You should talk to the US government.

The IAF needs the C-17 as a replacement for its fleet of some 20 Soviet-era Il-76 transports that were acquired in the 1980s and for which spares are now difficult to obtain.

An IL-76 can carry a cargo of around 45 tonnes and has a crew of six while a C-17 can carry 70 tonnes, and is much easier to operate with a small crew of two pilots and one loadmaster (total three), thanks to its various power-assisted systems. Two observers can also be seated.

Despite its massive size - 174 ft length, 55 ft height and about 170 ft wingspan - a pilot can fly the C-17 with a simple joystick, much like a fighter aircraft, which can be lifesaving in a battle zone as the aircraft can take off quickly and at steep angles. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F-117-PW-100 turbofan engines.

The C-17 is the mainstay of the US forces for worldwide deployment, and can be refuelled midair. It is the lifeline of US and NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan and before that in Iraq.

According to Boeing, the high-wing, 4-engine, multi-service T-tailed military-transport C-17 can carry large equipment including tanks, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world, day or night.

The sturdy, long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions. It has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s.

It can take off from a 7,600-ft airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles, refuel while in flight for longer range, and land in 3,000 ft or less on a small unpaved or paved airfield day or night.

The aircraft can also be used as an aerial ambulance.

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