Gilles wrote:<SNIP>So after selling this aircraft as a huge land and go-anywhere bush aircraft to the IAF, the same IAF had no choice but to upgrade a series of runways to accommodate same aircraft.........Now that the wedding is celebrated and the marriage is consumed.......
Your position with respect to published capabilities of C-17, and those not published, is well known. And they may hold good in case of opposing the Canadian purchase decision. But it would be prudent to not bring the same line of argument for the IAF purchase or the way we intend to employ the aircraft. Indian transport aircraft scene is pretty different.
1. First things first, India is not about to embark on expeditionary war. Something which might require an a/c like C-17 to land on short unpaved runways.
2. IAF has a very large network of airfield available across the entire length and breadth of the country. So, even if C-17 cannot land with it full permissible load on these airfields, it is still better than having to land on unpaved airfield in the middle of nowhere.
3. IAF is in the process of lengthening and updating almost its entire network of airfields across the country. This involves not only the runways but pretty much everything else. It is even updating its Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) to take large aircrafts like C-130 and C-17. These ALG are basically a runway in forward, inaccessible areas with basic set-up to support transport aircraft and helicopter operations. Most of them are located along Sino-Indian border in our north-eastern states. Some are in eastern Ladakh in our north, again along India-Tibet borders. Areas which will be scene of action if balloon goes up between India and China.
Recently, C-17 landed on an ALG where earlier an An-32 used to land. This ALG happens to be under 50 km from the Sino-Indian border in one of our north-eastern states and situated at an altitude of 6,000 feet. It has a runway which is under 4,500 feet.
An An-32 can carry between 5-6 tons. If a C-17 can bring in between 20-30 tons to ALG like these, that itself is a big advantage. Not to forget that cargo-hold dimensions of C-17 allows for many large-sized objects to be carried. So, where earlier IAF would've required almost half+ squadron of An-32, a single C-17 can do the task. It also makes on ground logistics easier.
I don't recall an IL-76 ever landing on any of our ALG in north or eastern India.
4. Coming to the weight aspect as mentioned in CAG report who mentioned, the report errs on a crucial aspect - it assumes that every logistic sortie of C-17 needs to happen with full load capacity. It never works that way.
An IL-76 which can theoretically carry ~40 tons of payload, is never able to carry this maximum capacity. This is because the cargo hold dimensions ensure that it is filled up by volume much before full payload capacity is utilized. Only in case of compact payload like a T-72 tank does an IL-76 utilize it full payload capacity.
If the CAG was to undertake an assessment on similar lines for IL-76, it would point out similar under-utilization as well!
However, there is another aspect to this argument.
This is what USAF website page on C-17 says about the a/c:
Maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds (77,519 kilograms), and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds (265,352 kilograms). With a payload of 169,000 pounds (76,657 kilograms) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534 meters), the C-17 has an un-refueled range of approximately 2,400 nautical miles. Its cruise speed is approximately 450 knots (.74 Mach)
Lets look at the data:
Empty weight - 128,100 kg
Full fuel capacity - 82,124 kg
Payload capacity - 76,657 kg
Max AUW - 2,65, 352 kg.
So, it seems to achieve full payload capacity, about 21.5 tons of less fuel than max fuel capacity needs to be carried. And this as per the above quoted statement from USAF website gives a range of 2,400 nautical miles or about 4,500 km.
Now, at its maximum from north to south, India is under 3,500 km in length. C-17s placed in center of India (where we do place IL-76) would require max radius of ops of 2,000 km. That is HALF of what C-17 can do with max payload!!!
In our case, given the radius of action and PCN restricton of AUW of 216 tons, a C-17 can carry 60 tons payload with ~30 tons of fuel to ensure it reaches the farthest corner of the country. Even if we give more leeway, a single C-17 can carry about 55 tons with 35 tons of fuel and still serve almost every nook or cranny of this country.
That is about 20 tons more than what an IL-76 can carry.
All the airfields mentioned in the CAG report that you mentioned are within 1,000 km of the base from where C-17 operate. In our case, the payload and fuel capacity of C-17 along with our operational requirement, gives tremendous capability.