The US Defense Dept. on Friday notified lawmakers of a possible sale of two Boeing C-17A airlifters to a European-based consortium that includes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Sweden and Finland.

The potential $700 million deal may help Boeing’s effort to prolong C-17 production, but not by as much as the company originally hoped.

The NATO and Scandinavian consortium – dubbed the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) -- had been expected to buy at least three and as many as four C-17s, but that number appears to have been reduced at least for now.

The C-17s will partially meet NATO’s requirement for eight “C-17 equivalents”, DOD’s notification document states.

“This capability provides consortium member nations with an organic capability that complements global reach efforts supported by the U.S. Air Force,” DOD adds.

If the proposed sale is accepted, the consortium would become the fourth international buyer for the C-17 programme and would increase the amount foreign orders to at least 13.

Boeing is counting on new international orders from governments in the Middle East and the UK by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US Congress is debating whether to add $3.9 billion on supplemental war spending bill to buy 15 more C-17s for the US Air Force.

DOD is requesting approval from Congress to sell two C-17s with a long list of necessary add-ons, including four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines, ALE-47 countermeasure dispensing systems, spares, pyrotechnics, crew armour and other items.

NATO is forming a new unit – the NATO Airlift Management Organization -- to manage the aircraft and another – the Heavy Airlift Wing – to conduct airlift operations.

The C-17s will be based in Hungary at Papa Air Base, which has already been upgraded to support USAF C-17 operations, DOD says. Boeing also will build a logistics and maintenance facility at Papa.

“NATO does not currently have a heavy airlift capability and must rely on outside sources for its military airlift needs,” DOD says. “This assistance normally takes the form of either U.S. Air Force airlift or contract carriers that use Russian heavy airlift aircraft. The procurement of C-17s will increase interoperability with the U.S. Air Force airlift system and will enhance relationships with SAC members.”