Four new LockheedMartin C-130J Super Hercules special mission transports arrived earlier this month at the Arjan Singh Air base (earlier named Panagarh AFS) in Panagarh, West Bengal. Livefist can confirm that two more will be delivered by the end of this month. The new C-130J squadron — the IAF’s second after the Hindon-based 77 Squadron ‘Veiled Vipers’ — will be raised this winter. The IAF’s total Super Hercules strength will stand at 11 aircraft.
The 77 Squadron, raised in 2011 with six new C-130Js, lost one of them in a March 2014 crash during a low level tactical sortie in central India, killing five personnel on board. In August last year, the Indian government signed on for one additional C-130J to replace the aircraft lost in the accident.
The IAF has been a very happy customer on the type, deploying its Hercs for all manner of activity, notably including the ferrying of cash last year after the Indian government demonetized currency en masse, transporting rescued citizens from flooded Kashmir in 2014, and flood relief operations in northern India in 2013. In August 2013, an IAF C-130J landed at the Daulat Beg Oldie airfield in northern Ladakh, one of the highest landing grounds in the world.
A C-130J from 77 Squadron first landed at Panagarh in August 2015, with the base now fully prepared to be the IAF’s second Super Herc hub. Reports also emerged today that the IAF will field a pair of C-130Js at Israel’s Blue Flag exercise in November this year.
In a related development today, India’s Mahindra Defence Systems unveiled its C-130J Super Hercules simulator training center at Hindon, the home of the C-130J unit.
“We are delighted to partner with Lockheed Martin in this venture in service to the Nation,” said S. P. Shukla, Group President, Aerospace & Defence Sector, and Chairman, Mahindra Defence Systems in a statement. “We believe this will help deliver the objectives of the Government of India and the Indian Air Force of building indigenous military capabilities.”