Tim Ripley

Boeing and Ministry of Defence (MOD) officials are locked in final negotiations this week to conclude a ground-breaking seven-year deal to lease four Lockheed C-17 Globemaster airlifters for use by the Royal Air Force as long-range transports until the European A400M enters service.

Complex negotiations have been under way since May involving the MOD, RAF, USAF and Boeing to hammer out the terms of leasing the airframes, air and ground training and logistic support.


Stu Thomson, Boeing's vice-president for airlifter and tanker business development, refuses to comment on reported tight restrictions on how the aircraft can be used, including not being able to drop paratroops and fly low level tactical flight profiles.

Boeing "...has made no public statement on use of aircraft by the RAF," he says. An RAF spokeswoman says: "The ink is not dry on the contract - we are contracting to operate the aircraft purely in the strategic role. It is most probable that the aircraft will be contracted to operate in an envelope consummate with the agreed [strategic] role. The agreement will say what we can do not what we can't do."

Thomson says the airlifters will be crewed by RAF personnel and logistically supported by the USAF, under government-to-government agreements. While the aircraft will be leased directly from Boeing direct to the MOD, "the UK and USAF have signed letters of offer and acceptance (LOA)" he says. Negotiations on terms and conditions continue, with mid-September the target date for signing.

"Strategically this is very important for us to get the C-17 into the hands of a second user outside the US, and there is no closer ally than the RAF," he says. "We've got to make it work. This is a strategic issue for the company. We do not normally lease new military hardware." There can be no better boost to the international sales campaign than four C-17s with RAF colours on them, says Thomson.

The MOD says the cost of the aircraft lease is $800 million; costs for fuel and infra-structure will push the cost to just under $5 billion.

Source: Flight Daily News