Boeing has finalised a contract to sell 10 C-17 airlifters to the Indian air force, but a key decision looms for the future of the strategic transport.

The $1.78 billion contract awarded to Boeing on 2 February completes a three-year negotiation process, but it was not immediately clear if it was the full amount. During US President Barack Obama's visit to India in late 2010, the White House said the value of the 10-aircraft deal was $4.1 billion.

The C-17 is generally priced at around $250 million per aircraft, including four Pratt & Whitney F117 engines.

The US Air Force has stopped buying C-17s after ordering 223 aircraft, with the final 10 added by Congress in the fiscal year 2010 budget and ordered only recently.

445x296 Boeing C17 

© Boeing

As the C-17 programme came to rely on foreign orders, Boeing reduced the production rate to 10 aircraft per year without increasing the unit price. The company is still marketing the aircraft to new countries. The C-17, for example, made an appearance at the Seoul air show in South Korea in October 2011. Existing customers, such as the Royal Australian Air Force, have also expressed interest in buying more.

However, Boeing must decide by May whether to order a new batch of long-lead parts, or begin the slow process of shutting down the C-17's supply chain. The parts will be purchased by the manufacturer, with no guarantee that new orders will be placed.

Senator Claire McCaskill, meanwhile, has asked the US Federal Aviation Administration to accelerate the process of certifying a civilian version, reviving the BC-17 concept previously rejected by the commercial freighter industry.

Source: Flight International