Boeing will shutter the production line for its C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter in 2015, the company announced on 18 September.

“Despite strong international interest we did not receive sufficient orders to continue to protect the C-17 production line beyond 2015,” says Nan Bouchard, Boeing vice-president and C-17 programme manager. Thus far, the company has delivered 223 C-17s to the US Air Force and 34 additional airframes to international customers.

There are still 22 C-17s being built. Seven are destined for the Indian air force, while two more are for an undisclosed customer, Bouchard says. The thirteen remaining aircraft have no firm orders, she says, but the company will sell those machines.

Even though the C-17 line will close, Boeing will continue to support the aircraft via its Globemaster Integrated Sustainment Programme, says Bouchard. The engineering talent to design and build strategic airlifters will be retained within Boeing via the C-17 sustainment programme, she adds. However, to what extent the skills to design an entirely new airlifter from scratch will be retained is an open question.

Boeing is under contract to the USAF to transition the tooling to a post-production state to supply spare parts and repairs, Bouchard says. All of the tooling for the aircraft, including those belonging to sub-contractors are being examined to determine whether the production hardware should be retained. Potentially, the USAF could retain enough of the tooling to restart the C-17 line, Bouchard says. However, there are no plans to do so.