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16 August 2016

Indian Government Audit Says Boeing Failed to Meet C-17 Aircraft Offset Obligations

In July 2016, the Indian government auditor slammed the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Boeing for underutilising the operational capabilities of the ten C-17 GLOBEMASTER aircraft.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report to the Parliament, said that Boeing had failed to meet offset commitments, missing its deadline way back in 2013.

As part of its offset deal, Boeing was required to set up a C-17 simulator centre required to train pilots and a platform training facility for maintenance training worth U$97 million and $38.21 million respectively by 2013, according to the CAG.

However, it is important to note that Boeing and Mahindra Defence Systems opened a C-17 training centre for the IAF only two weeks before the government report was published.

Gene Cunningham, Vice President, Global Sales, Defense, Space & Security; Gp. Capt. TR Ravi Commanding Officer 81 Squadron Indian Air Force (IAF); S. P. Shukla, Group President, Aerospace & Defence Sector, and Chairman, Mahindra Defence Systems; Air Marshal BS Dhanoa, Vice Chief of Air Staff, IAF; and Pratyush Kumar, President, Boeing India, inaugurate the Boeing C-17 Simulation Training Centre in Gurgaon on 8 July. (Photo: Boeing)

The centre features a complete training solution for C-17 pilots and loadmasters with advanced simulation, courseware and computer-based training to practice the complete range of tasks required for military airlift operations and humanitarian missions, along with other situations such as aerial refuelling and emergency procedures, according to Boeing.

However, Boeing is also accused of failing to meet other contractual obligations. The aircraft-maker was expected to set up a special support infrastructure worth $152 million by July 2013, but has yet to do so. That CAG notes that surprisingly conditions to impose fines for late delivery of supplies and infrastructure are nonexistent.

The report also noted that the performance of the aircraft was severely affected due to a lack of ground equipment. The CAG blamed, “non-availability of runways with appropriate pavement classification number and lack of ground equipment at various bases for the underutilisation,” of the aircraft.

In order to reduce ground time of a strategic asset whose main aim was rapid deployment, all units conveying load on regular basis on C-17 aircraft should have a required material handling equipment (MHE), trained fork lifter driver and trained manpower for palletization1 of their load,” according to the report.

For the purpose of loading and unloading, a fork lifter weighing 13t was always being carried in the aircraft, as other units did not have ground-handling equipment.

“This fork lifter occupies 35% of the cargo space leaving limited space for payload. Due to this space restriction, C-17 aircraft had to undertake more than one sortie on the same day to airlift cargo from same destination, on many occasions,” the report said. The aircraft is capable of carrying a maximum of 70t for a range of 4,200 kilometres.

With cost of Rs.43.19lakh per flying hour for C-17 aircraft, this was imprudent,” the CAG said. The annual average load airlifted by C-17 ranged 13-18t per sortie, against the aircraft’s payload capacity of 70 tonnes.

The report adds: “The operating squadron of the IAF stated that C-17 aircraft could carry only 35t of load (40t in winter) and on a few occasions, the C-17 was tasked for only 26 tonnes.”

According to Boeing, the long-range heavy transport aircraft has in-flight refuelling capabilities and a range of 4,200km with a maximum payload of 70mt and 9,000km with a reduced payload of 40 tonnes.

The IAF procured 10 Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft and associated equipment at a total cost of $4.1 billion from the US through FMS in June 2011.

The operating squadron stated in September 2015 that C-17 aircraft could carry only 35t of load — 40t in winters — and on a few occasions, C-17 was tasked for only 26 tonnes.

The CAG also hit the Indian Navy hard. In the same report to the Parliament, it was revealed that Navy’s Russian-origin MiG-29K aircraft, currently operating on the INS Vikramaditya was riddled with a number of problems. Such as engine and airframe problems, deficiencies in its fly-by-wire system and poor serviceability.

The deficiencies in the maritime fighter have compromised its battle-readiness. According to the report, the serviceability of the single-seat MiG-29K ranged from an unimpressive 15.93-37.63 % while that of the twin-seat trainer MiG-29KUB hovered between 21.3% and 47.14 percent.
The Indian DoD recently placed an order for an additional 45 aircraft to be deployed on the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) currently being built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard.
Bindiya Carmeline Thomas