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While the C-130J Super Hercules is a mainstay of the Indian Air Force (IAF) today, there was another workhorse that served for decades before it – the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar. The C-119, also known as the C-119G Packet in IAF service, wasn’t the sleek jet we see today. Nicknamed the “Flying Boxcar” for its boxy fuselage, it was a rugged and reliable transport aircraft. The IAF was among the first to adopt the C-119, utilizing it for various critical tasks.

This versatile aircraft wasn’t just for cargo. The C-119 could transport troops, equipment, and even drop them by parachute using its rear clamshell doors. This capability proved invaluable in the early years of the IAF.

The IAF operated a sizable fleet of C-119s, with around 79 units serving the nation. Interestingly, the IAF also received 27 C-119s that were civil conversions. These upgrades included Westinghouse J34-WE-36 dorsal jet-pods, boosting their take-off weight to a significant 77,000 lbs (35,000 kg).

The C-119 served the IAF faithfully for many years. However, by the 1980s, advancements in aviation technology necessitated a change. In 1986, the IAF transitioned to the Russian An-32, an aircraft offering greater capacity and performance.

While the C-119 may no longer grace Indian skies, its contribution to the IAF’s history is undeniable. This robust aircraft played a vital role in transporting troops, equipment, and supplies, laying the groundwork for the modern airlift capabilities of the Indian Air Force.