In a display of the US Lockheed Martin-made C-130J's 100 per cent serviceability, the Indian Air Force (IAF), which is the latest customer for this all-weather rugged medium lifter, carried out a tactical formation flying of all its six planes in its fleet.
The operational readiness sortie for about an hour was carried out by the IAF's 77 'Veiled Vipers' Squadron, which is based at Hindon in Ghaziabad on the outskirts of the national capital, New Delhi.
India had bought the six planes in an over $1-billion in 2008 and the planes were delivered to IAF beginning December 2010. The C-130J was inducted into the IAF in February 2011.
The planes were bought by India as a means of transport for its special forces to carry out specialist operations, either behind enemy lines or against internal terrorist threats.
The six planes took off from Hindon simultaneously at the break of dawn earlier this week and returned to the base after their sortie.
The C-130J, capable of carrying 92 paratroopers with their gear or 128 fully equipped combat troops, was inducted in February 2011. The six planes were ordered by India from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin in 2008 and the first plane was delivered to the IAF in December 2010.
"The six-aircraft fleet was carrying out the tactical flying operation, as part of its training. It was to display that all the six C-130J can be flown out to carry about a battalion-strength troops if necessary," an IAF officer said.
Capable of carrying out a low-level flying undetected to assist in covert missions, the plane can land on all sorts of airstrip surfaces, including assault strips.
The aircraft from the squadron was first put to operational use by the IAF during the Sikkim earthquake last year when relief personnel and material were rushed to Baghdogra in West Bengal, the nearest airbase to Sikkim.
Later, the aircraft from the fleet also carried out a tactical airdrop over Andaman and Nicobar Islands the same year, after flying non-stop and returning to base.
This year, the planes from the squadron made a landing in Andaman and Nicobar, a tri-services military base where the Indian armed forces have a couple of airstrips, including one in Port Blair.
Apart from Hindon, IAF may permanently deploy C-130Js at an airbase in eastern part of India, either in West Bengal or Orissa in the future.