Russia's eclipse and the US' rise in the Indian military will soon stand out in the air force's transport division.
Sources said the government is moving in to seal yet another government-to-government deal with the US for a military purchase. They are ordering ten C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
The deal is worth over $2 billion (Rs10,000 crore). When inducted, C-17 Globemaster would replace the Russian-made IL-76 as the biggest transport aircraft of India. C-17, a Boeing product, can carry almost 80,000 kg, against IL-76's 50,000 kg.
Sources said the C-17 deal was discussed and "almost finalised" at a recent meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council, under the defence minister, and the deal could be signed in a few months.
Globemaster can be operated by just two pilots and another crew, whereas the much smaller IL-76 needs a crew of six. Comfort levels, too, are dramatic. The deal finalisation comes even as the air force readies to induce six C-130J Super Hercules transport planes, that can carry a payload of 20,000 kg, in 2011.
Presently, the IAF's fixed-wing fleet comprises 20 Russian made IL-76 and over a 100 AN-32s. The Globemaster and C-130J are set to significantly alter Russian dominance.
Meanwhile, US firms are making an aggressive pitch to corner contracts for transport helicopters, dominated by Russians all these decades. Boeing today said it submitted two proposals to the IAF this week — the AH-64D Apache and the CH-47F Chinook for attack and heavy-lift helicopter operations.
Air force is enthusiastic about the Chinooks.