Boeing expects formal US Department of Defense approval this week to fit an extended range tank (ERT)to the C-17 Globemaster. The revised aircraft configuration could be delivered to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) to meet its Short Term Strategic Airlift (STSA) requirement.

The ERT boosts fuel capacity by about 37,900 litres (10,000 USgal), increasing range with a 40,700kg (90,000lb) payload from 6,850km (3,700nm) to 8,000km. Located in the centre wing box above the fuselage, the tank is already built into the airframe, but wiring, piping and other modifications associated with its activation will increase operating empty weight by 900kg.

The first delivery of an ERT-equipped aircraft for the US Air Force is due in 2001. Boeing is offering the next aircraft off the line as the first of up to four that could be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2001, says STSA/FTA (Future Transport Aircraft) international programme manager Dave Bowman.

"They have asked for half the capacity by mid-2001, and we'd like to give them all the aircraft by the end of the year," he adds.

Boeing has offered the UK more than six options covering leases from four to nine years, and a minimum of four aircraft.

UK officials will visit Boeing's Long Beach site in California this month to review the options. The lease proposals are unique to the UK and are based on direct commercial sale conditions normally used by Boeing's airliner marketeers, rather than the traditional foreign military sales approach.

All the options, which involve Boeing's UK partner British Aerospace, take advantage of the flexible sustainment programme. Used by the USAF his relieves the operations of the maintenance and spares support burden of the C-17 fleet, and relies on Boeing's worldwide spares support network. BAe is providing the bid's product support element. The UK is expected to make a decision on the STSA in early 2000.

Source: Flight International