The Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft coming from Kabul reading to land in Jamnagar Air Base
New Delhi: If there is one image or video which has symbolised the mayhem and fear that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has brought in, it is that of Afghan nationals desperately clinging on to the undercarriage of the C-17 Globemaster aircraft of the US Air Force as it took off Monday with Americans and Afghan nationals on board.
Another image, one that brings to light the international support the Taliban enjoys, is that of their leadership alighting from a C-17 aircraft of the Qatar Air Force in Kandahar Tuesday.
An image that brought a sigh of relief to millions of Indians Tuesday was of a C-17 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) landing at the Jamnagar airbase with evacuated Indians on board from Kabul.
The common link in all three instances is the C-17 Globemaster, the largest transport aircraft operated by the IAF.
Sources in the defence establishment said that since their induction began in 2013, the C-17s have flown over 31,000 flying hours.
Manufactured by American firm Boeing, the C-17s, which are a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed aircraft with a rear-loading ramp, have been a force multiplier for the military across the world.
The speciality of the aircraft is that it can carry large combat equipment and troops or undertake humanitarian aid across the world directly to small airfields.
However, C-17s, which made their maiden flight on 15 September 1991 are no longer manufactured.
The IAF had in 2009 selected the C-17s for its ‘Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft’ requirement.
A contract was finally signed in 2011 for the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster III under a $4.1 billion deal.
The contract, which brought in a huge airlift capability to the IAF, came at a time when had India started focusing on the northern borders with China.
This made India the biggest operator of the C17s in the world outside the US.
The other operators of the aircraft besides India and the US are the United Kingdom (8), Australia (8), Canada (5), Kuwait (2), Qatar (8), the United Arab Emirates (8), and the 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability consortium (3).
The first C-17 was handed over to India in 2013. Since its induction, the IAF has extensively used the C-17 both for military and evacuation purposes, as in the case of Afghanistan, and for transporting Oxygen containers during the second wave of the Covid pandemic.
One of the biggest reasons why India could quickly deploy a large number of soldiers and equipment during the ongoing tensions in Eastern Ladakh was the C-17s. The aircraft flew in men, armoured personnel carriers, and even tanks into Ladakh.
Seeing the performance of the C-17s, the IAF had moved a proposal in 2018 for the purchase of at least three more from Boeing, which had decided to shut down its manufacturing plant.
By the time India decided to purchase in 2018, Boeing had already sold four of its five remaining C-17s to Qatar and India got the last remaining one.
C-17s Are Powered By Four Engines
Four Pratt & Whitney PW2040 (military designation F117-PW-100) engines with 40,440 pounds thrust each, power the C-17s. A two-person cockpit crew and one loadmaster operate the C-17, which can be refuelled in flight.
The C-17 is 174 feet long (53 meters) and has a wingspan of 169 feet (51.75 meters).
According to the US Air Force, the C-17s have a maximum payload capacity of 170,900 pounds (77,519 kilograms), and its maximum gross take-off weight is 585,000 pounds (265,352 kilograms).
With a payload of 164,900 pounds (74,797 kilograms) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534 meters), the C-17 has a range of approximately 2,400 nautical miles (4444 KMs) without mid-air refuelling.
The C-17 also has the capability to take off and land on runways as short as 3,500 feet (1,064 meters) and only 90 feet wide (27.4 meters).