The global aerospace giant Boeing integrated the forward, center and aft (rear) fuselages and the wing assembly of India's first C-17 Globemaster during the airlifter's "major join" ceremony yesterday.
Officials from the Indian embassy in San Francisco and Indian Air Force drove ceremonial rivets into the aircraft, a key milestone in the programme. India's Consul General in San Fransico N Parthasarathi called the ceremony as "practically riveting the Indo-US relations".
"This momentous occasion, where we see India's first C-17 take shape, further strengthens our growing relationship. As India strives to become a global reservoir of highly skilled and technologically sophisticated manpower, we will witness an escalating technology transfer, collaborative joint research and development, and co-production of defense items between our two countries," Parthasarthi said as he addressed members of US and Indian Airforce, Boeing company and a select number of people from both the countries yesterday.
Parthasarthi was accompanied by a team of senior IAF officials who had flown down from India especially for the yesterday's "major join" ceremony.
"With this ceremony, we expect the first C-17 to be in India by June next year," Air Commodore Sanjay Nimesh told PTI on the sidelines of the event held inside the Long Beach manufacturing facility of the Boeing.
Parthasarathi also said that India has ordered purchase of US equipment to the tune of USD nine billion and there was "much more to come".
"This is a proud day for the highly skilled Boeing workforce and our newest customer (India) to celebrate a major production milestone," Boeing Airlift vice president and C-17 programme manager Bob Ciesla said in a statement. The manufacturing of this aircraft, which will roll out with Indian colours on its T-tail and the cockpit had begun in January this year.
The nine others are expected to fly into the country in specified timelines by the end of 2014.
India had inked the official order for procuring ten of these aircraft in June last year which made it the largest customer of the 'Globemaster' after the US Air Force.
India plans to use these multi-purpose flying giants for humanitarian relief and assistance during floods and other calamities, strategic lifting and transport of large contingents of troops and military equipment to any part of the country at a short notice.
The IAF is expected to base its C-17 fleet at Hindon. The aircraft is powered by four-engines, has a rear-loading ramp and can take a payload as much as 164,900 pounds and boasts of a take-off from a 7,000-foot airfield and land on a small unprepared airfield of 3,000 feet or less.
The aircraft, used by 18 other countries like Australia, Canada and the UK can fly 2,400 nautical miles and can be refueled mid-air.
It is said to be a workhorse for aeromedical 'care in air' sorties and evacuation and can fly long haul missions. The ceremony was cheered upon by a number of Indians who work with the Boeing company here in Long Beach and senior officials and workers from both the countries.
The Indian plane, heavily plugged with wires and mechanics, stood aloft on its landing gear in its raw paint yellow colour, sporting the Indian flag on the cockpit.
The Long Beach Boeing facility in California state is the third largest aircraft manufacturing site of the aviation firm in the United States.
Boeing has delivered 245 C-17s worldwide, including 217 to the US Air Force.