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    Indo-US air force transport exercise at Agra next year

    New Delhi (PTI): Ramping up the forward-moving interaction between their airforces, India and the US will hold a high-level joint exercise of their transport aircraft and helicopter fleet at Agra in the first half of next year.

    "The 2009 exercise will include both the transport aircraft and helicopters, and will concentrate more on logistics and air maintenance manoeuvre," a top Indian Air force (IAF) officer told PTI here on Monday.

    The Agra exercise will witness the USAF's Chinooks and Bell helicopters and the C-130J Hercules multi-role transport aircraft vying with the IAF's workhorses An-32 mediumlift, IL-76 heavylift aircraft and its transport choppers Mi-17 and Mi-26.

    Incidentally, Chinook is a competitor for the IAF's heavylift helicopter tenders, where airforce is looking to procure 12 heavylift choppers.

    Bell choppers have also received the Request for Proposals from India for the IAF and Army requirement for 197 light utility helicopters.

    India has already bought six of the C-130J Hercules for its special forces and a follow-on order of another six Hercules is in the pipeline. Delivery of the C-130J will begin in 2010, according to IAF sources.

    Just about a week ago, the IAF's Su-30 MKIs multirole air superiority aircraft returned from US after participating in the world's most advanced 'Red Flag' air wargame.

    India and the US air forces have earlier exercised twice in 2004 at Gwalior (in Madhya Pradesh) and Alaska (in US), and once in 2005 at Kalaikunda in West Bengal, all of which have been fighter fleet exercises.

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