UK to buy eighth C-17 transport

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The UK is to receive another Boeing C-17 strategic transport, with the acquisition to boost the Royal Air Force's fleet of the type to eight aircraft.

Announced by prime minister David Cameron on 8 February, the £200 million ($316 million) purchase represents the potentially final addition to the UK's C-17 fleet, which plays a vital role in sustaining its "airbridge" with Afghanistan. Seven are flown by the service's 99 Sqn from its air transport super base at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

 

© Sgt Ross Tilly/Crown Copyright

The RAF's C-17s play a vital role in supporting UK operations in Afghanistan

"The newest C-17 is currently being built by Boeing in the USA and is due to come off the production line next month," the UK Ministry of Defence said. "It is then expected to enter service with the RAF in July 2012."

"Boeing is delighted to hear that the UK government is ready to procure an eighth C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft to meet the nation’s growing airlift needs," said Bob Ciesla, the company's C-17 programme manager. A contract has yet to be signed for the acquisition.

In May 2011, the RAF marked the completion of its first decade of operations with the C-17, an initial four of which were flown under a lease agreement with the USA. These were subsequently purchased outright, with orders later placed for two and one aircraft respectively.

The UK operates the second-largest fleet of C-17s, behind the US Air Force, although India recently completed the process of ordering a fleet of 10 to enter use from later this decade.