Home / Politics / Policy /  IAF C-130J Super Hercules cargo plane crash kills 5

New Delhi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J Super Hercules cargo plane crashed near Gwalior on Friday, killing all five personnel on board— the latest in a string of expensive losses for the military.

The plane, with a price tag of $160 million (around 960 crore today), crashed while it was on a routine training mission, the IAF said in a statement.

Two wing commanders, two squadron leaders and a fifth crew member were killed, IAF spokesman Group Captain Gerard Galway said.

The IAF ordered a preliminary inquiry into the crash.

The four-engine military transport aircraft manufactured by US-based Lockheed Martin Corp. flies in 72 countries. It is capable of precision low-level flying, airdrops and landing in blackout conditions and has been used extensively in Afghanistan by the US.

“It’s a very unfortunate accident. It’s a very sturdy aircraft. We don’t know what has really happened," said C. Uday Bhaskar, an expert on military affairs.

It’s the latest in a string of accidents to befall the Indian Armed Forces in recent months. Navy chief D.K. Joshi quit in February after fire onboard the submarine INS Sindhuratna left two officers dead. That followed an explosion on board the submarine INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 personnel in August.

“Nobody is saying take it as a routine (matter), but let’s not make it out (to be a) catastrophe," Uday Bhaskar said. “Let’s wait for the outcome (of the inquiry). Indian defence forces have enough institutional resilience to handle these."

Teams from Lockheed Martin Corp. and its AE2100 engine maker Rolls-Royce Holding Plc may visit the site at a later stage, the IAF spokesman said, but that will depend on the preliminary inquiry indicating a technical problem.

The IAF bought six C-130J transport aircraft in a $1.2 billion contract in 2008. The first aircraft, capable of carrying up to 20 tonnes of material and used for the swift deployment of troops and military equipment in tough terrain, was delivered by Lockheed in December 2010.

In August, IAF landed a C130J-30 Super Hercules on the world’s highest airstrip—Daulat Beg Oldi in Jammu and Kashmir. Situated at a height of 5,065 metres, it is in the Aksai Chin area of the state.

There are six more Super Hercules aircraft on order from Lockheed Martin.

The home base of the 77 squadron ‘Veiled Vipers’ operating the aircraft is Hindon Air Force Station in Ghaziabad on the outskirts of New Delhi.

IAF most recently pressed the planes into service to search for the debris of Malaysia Airlines MH370 that disappeared in the Indian Ocean on 8 March.

The $1.2 billion contract signed by India and US included training of crew and maintenance technicians, spares, ground support and test equipment, servicing carts, forklifts, loading vehicles and a team of technical specialists who were based in India during the initial three-year support period.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Stephanie Sonnenfeld Stinn said in an email “Lockheed Martin will support the investigation in any way the Indian Air Force requests help."

Lockheed Martin confirmed that the support contract with Indian Air Force has ended and there are no teams on ground but the pilots were well trained.

Rolls-Royce declined to comment.

The C-130J Super Hercules aircraft were procured from the US in what is known as a Foreign Military Sales (FMS), or government-to-government military sales where no tendering is required. It was India’s first FMS deal.

A Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J crashed on 15 March 2012 in Sweden. All five people on board were killed.

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