India has expressed early interest in the possibility of obtaining more Boeing C-17 strategic transports to follow its firm order for 10 of the type.
"There is some initial indication that they might be interested in as many as six to eight more," says Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "These are decisions that will have to be made by the Indian customer," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogues, an annual defence conference in Singapore.
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Unsourced media reports in India have long hinted that New Delhi may obtain more than the 10 C-17s it has on order. In August 2011, Indian defence minister A K Antony told the nation's parliament there were no plans for a follow-on buy.
Last year, Boeing reduced the number of C-17s produced annually to 10 from 15. Muilenburg says that based on the current backlog, the company can keep its final assembly line in Long Beach, California, open until the third quarter of 2014.
"We continue to see international opportunity beyond the current firm backlog, and so we're hopeful to extend production beyond that date," he says. He adds that it is "difficult to say" how long the line can be kept open beyond late 2014.
"We do see opportunities for perhaps two or three more years [contingent on international sales]," he says. "It's highly dependent on those decisions moving forward on a pace that supports the production line.
"We go through a deliberate process every quarter looking at the future order potential and the longevity of production, and continue to manage things to be sure we continue to deliver on schedule and on cost."
Boeing says India's C-17s are due to be delivered in 2013-2014.
Muilenburg also confirmed recent reports that Indonesia has expressed interest in obtaining the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter.
Source: Flight International