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By Bulbul Singh

13 May 06. Lockheed Martin of United States has offered the C-130J heavy lift aircraft to the Indian Air Force but has imposed a condition that the Indian government should not make a global bid for an aircraft in this category and buy it from them only on the basis of a single vendor tender.

Lockheed Martin says that it is offering the hi tech C-130J aircraft to the Indian Air Force which has advanced features and is not prepared to participate in a global tender and then go through the procedural procurement process of the Indian government, which is very bureaucratic and lengthy. A defense ministry official said the C-130J has already been tried by the Indian Air Force in joint Indo-U.S. exercises in past.

The C-130J Hercules heavy-lift aircraft are capable of operating from rough dirty spots and used as prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. The C-130J is faster, flies faster and soars higher than the previous generations of Hercules aircraft, said a senior Indian Air Force official.

The C-130J is a preferred aircraft of the Indian Air Force, said the Air Force official and the air force needs an aircraft in this category urgently.

Currently the Indian Air Force’s transport fleet constitutes around 100 Russian AN 32 aircraft and the Russian IL 76 aircraft. Even these aircraft are long overdue for upgrade. In an arrangement seen as a possible precursor to the sale of C-130J aircraft to India, Lockheed Martin signed an agreement last year with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the maintenance of their equipment in India which also included the C-130J aircraft. While the Indian Air Force wants to buy the C-130J the Indian defense ministry is finding it very difficult to float only a single vendor tender for only Lockheed Martin said the defense ministry. The United Progressive Alliance government when it came to power in 2004 directed the defense ministry to buy defense equipment preferably on global tender basis only. The decision came in the wake of Denel of South Africa getting blacklisted on charges of alleged kick backs in the purchase of rifles. The Indian government wants to ward off any political controversy arising in the future on defence procurement based only on single vendor basis, added the defence ministry official.

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