1 July 2017

Sale of one C-17 transport aircraft and Relevant issues

Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM(Retd)

US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in its website wrote :

The Government of India has requested the possible sale of one C-17 transport aircraft with four Turbofan F-117-PW-100 engines. The sale would also include one AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, one AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS), one AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponder, precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, warranty, Quality Assurance, ferry support, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $366.2 million.

The principal contractor will be the Boeing Company, Chicago, IL. The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.

In a report Boeing Ends C-17 Production in California, published in Nov 30, 2015 it was stated Boeing closed out C-17 deliveries and seven decades of aircraft production in Long Beach, California. One aircraft that remains unsold and in storage in Texas, takes the overall production tally to 279. While Boeing continues to provide support, maintenance and upgrades to the airlifter fleet under the C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) Performance-Based Logistics program, the future of the production site at Long Beach remains undecided The C-17 is the last series-built, fixed-wing aircraft to be completely assembled and delivered in the state. 

As a layman who has no knowledge about the procurement process and the various details concerning the purchase of one C-17 aircraft from USA I have the following observations :

Ø Is the aircraft C-17 being procured was the last aircraft standing in its production facilities of Boeing in Long Beach, California.

Ø What is the great advantage of one single piece of aircraft. IAF has already ten of these aircraft .

Ø CAG had come down very harshly on utilization of these aircrafts. Please see http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/IAF%E2%80%99s-C-17-Globemaster-aircraft-underutilised-CAG/article14509768.ece . The CAG slammed U.S. defence major Boeing for its failure to set up simulators, which were to be up and running by July 2013, as well as ground facilities and other offset commitments. Is Boeing meeting the commitments of offsets before we purchase this single aircraft.

Ø Who decides what is the requirement of IAF’s transport fleet. We already have : 130J Super Hercules – 6 ( one accident) and six to be delivered this year , Il-76MD(Gajraj) - 17, HS 748-100 – 59 To be replaced with 56 EADS CASA C-295 aircraft, An-32 - 60 and An-32RE – 40, Dornier Do 228-201 - 40,14 more ordered in February 2015. 

IAF has to follow an operational doctrine for its transport fleet operations. What is that. 

How many aircrafts have been used at a time for HADR. Is it not a overkill, what is the Return on Investment. For HADR one can also use civil aircraft requisitioned. Purchasing these aircrafts for HADR has no logic, we already have enough. Neither one can justify procurement of these aircrafts for ferrying of currency notes. (http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/11/28/indian-air-forces-biggest-aircraft-are-now-ferrying-tonnes-of-c_a_21615575/)

Is the Indian Army in the loop for procurement of these aircrafts. After all these are only platforms being maintained by IAF. Its usage will be mainly for army: transportation of stores or personnel.

Can somebody do a back of the hand calculation and give the figure how much money is required for a good bullet proof jacket and headgear for the front line soldiers actively involved in Counter Insurgency operation in J& K and North East. The platforms procured by IAF and Indian Navy are all big ticket items, require huge money. One can’t blame them, they are doing their job. Expenditure on defence as percentage of GDP is all time low. This is going to remain there. Priorities have to be fixed carefully. What is more important : flack jackets for soldiers fighting and dying everyday or some high cost platform. Is HQ IDS exercising its authority in these prioritisation. Can you expect, for example IAF Chief who is also Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee to thumb down his own procurement proposal in favour of say Army’s need. 

Why is army’s procurement process is such that its valiant soldiers don’t get the basic things like his personal weapons, bullet proof jackets, helmets, even batteries for night vision devices and other surveillance devices.

I am tempted to quote Supreme Allied Commander Gen Dwight D Eisenhower, but I will leave it for another day.

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