An authoritative defense magazine reported Monday that India has the largest long-range heavy airlift capability after the two superpowers and has placed orders with the Soviet Union for even bigger airplanes.
The magazine, Defense & Foreign Affairs, said India has Soviet-made Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft - the equivalent of the U.S. C-141 Starlifter - that give India an airlift capacity following only the United States and the Soviet Union.The Il-76, the magazine said, "proved invaluable during the Maldives operations, enabling India to move two battalions of the army's rapid response 50th brigade within hours."
On Nov. 3, the government of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi mobilized warships and about 100 aircraft to the Maldives to halt a coup attempt.
The defense strategy magazine also reported that within 18 months the Indian Air Force will take delivery of the first two Antonov An-124 transport planes from the Soviet Union. Those craft are the equivalent of the American C-5A Galaxy freighter.
The magazine, which conducted interviews with Gandhi and his chief defense officials, said that within the next five years, India's airlift capability will stretch into the western end of the Pesian Gulf and to the eastern edge of Southeast Asia.
Other senior Indian officials were quoted by the magazine as saying that the government now is considering for the first time exporting arms from its huge defense industry.