The Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III fleet, which played a crucial role in transporting soldiers and military equipment to eastern Ladakh last year when the border row with China was at its peak, is now at the centre of IAF’s efforts for Covid-19 relief, with eight such heavy-lift aircraft flying sorties regularly to international and domestic locations to help overcome a frightening shortage of oxygen, officials familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
The US-origin C-17s account for the bulk of the total flying hours clocked by IAF for Covid-related duties so far, said one of the officials cited above. A C-17 can carry a payload of almost 77 tonne. The fleet was used extensively to move soldiers, tanks and infantry combat vehicles to Ladakh last year to counter China’s military build-up in the sensitive sector. “The C-17s helped us mount a swift response to the Chinese actions. And now they have become the face of the IAF’s contribution to the national Covid response,” said a second official.
The C-17 is the only aircraft currently being used to ferry containers from abroad.
“Till date (May 4), the IAF has brought in 54 cryogenic oxygen containers and 900 oxygen cylinders from Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, Frankfurt and Brize Norton in the United Kingdom, clocking over 140 hours of flying