WASHINGTON: The United States and India have signed a letter of offer and acceptance for six Lockheed Martin C-130J airlifters, with final closure of the estimated $800 million deal expected by midyear.

“It’s an important deal for the US government and the Indian government. And for Lockheed Martin, it’s a milestone event,” Robert Trice, senior vice-president for corporate business development at Lockheed Martin told reporters.

The C130J is the newest generation of the C-130 Hercules which primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission.

The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.

The C-130 operates throughout the US Air Force, serving with Air Mobility Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, theatre commands, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve Command, fulfilling a wide range of operational missions in both peace and war situations.

The US and Indian governments are now working to conclude details of an industrial cooperation package estimated at about 20 per cent of the contract value.

India’s sole source for the C-130J programme was a litmus test for Lockheed Martin with regard to future defence export potential. The anticipated conclusion of the deal bodes well for the firm as it prepares to answer Indian requests for proposals for a planned 126-aircraft fighter competition.

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