Just six months after narrowly averting a shutdown, Boeing says it will begin closing down its C-17 production line in early March unless the US Air Force or Congress indicate that additional aircraft will be funded.
Boeing had expected the USAF's unfunded priorities list for fiscal year 2008, provided to Congress last week, to include 12 C-17s, but the final list includes just two.
"The C-17 programme is again at a critical juncture," says Boeing. "Because of the 34-month lead time required to produce C-17s, in the absence of a Department of Defense commitment to procure additional C-17s in FY2008 and beyond, after early March Boeing and its suppliers will not continue working on aircraft beyond current customer commitments." The last aircraft currently on order will be delivered in mid-2009.
The USAF had expected coalition orders to sustain the C-17 line until it could persuade Congress to cancel a re-engining programme for the Lockheed C-5A. But delays in a four-aircraft NATO deal and the shelving of a Swedish requirement for two mean fresh orders have not materialised. Boeing is, however, continuing an aggressive marketing drive for the C-17.
The USAF's top unfunded priorities are for five Bell Boeing CV-22 tiltrotors, 20 Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports, five special-operations MC-130s and six General Atomics MQ-1 Predator unmanned air vehicles.
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Coalition orders might save C-17