Boeing has given potential international customers a June 2006 deadline to order C-17 transports or risk paying significantly more than the current $220 million list price.

Boeing vice-president for mobility programmes John Sams says Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway and Sweden have all expressed interest in buying C-17s, but, in order to leverage off the last batch of aircraft being acquired by the US Air Force, any international deal must be concluded by mid-year. US president George Bush has proposed ending the USAF’s purchase of C-17s after the delivery of its 180th aircraft in April 2008, but Sams says Boeing is still “working with the air force to see if that’s the outcome in the end”.

Sams says the deadline for acquiring long-lead items from some suppliers for additional aircraft expired in late 2005, but Boeing is “working with them to keep their production capability there” in case Congress decides to reject Bush’s proposal and acquire more aircraft or an international customer comes forward. Boeing is now producing C-17s at a rate of 15 per year and any international orders made before mid-2006 “can fit right into the line and take advantage of that 15 aircraft rate,” Sams says.

Australia could decide by early May to acquire four C-17s, while the UK – currently the only C-17 operator besides the USAF – has announced its intention to acquire a fifth example. Sams says “some interest” has also been received from several European countries, including Germany, Norway and Sweden. “That’s where we feel the greatest interest lies,” he said during last week’s Asian Aerospace show in Singapore.

If no new orders are secured by mid-year, Boeing may also stop buying long-lead parts. If this happens, the company could still manufacture additional C-17s, but there would be a gap in the production line and therefore the aircraft’s unit price would escalate significantly.


Source: Flight International