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Australia to buy up to four more C-17s

The Australian Government has announced its intention to buy an additional two and possibly up to four Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transports for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

In a media statement issued on 3 October, defence minister David Johnston said the process to purchase two aircraft had already begun through a request for pricing and availability through the US Government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. He added that a decision on two more aircraft would be informed by the outcomes of 2015 Defence White Paper and Force Structure Review processes.

“Since the first delivery in 2006, we have seen the C-17A Globemaster perform exceptionally well at the forefront of Australia’s military operations and humanitarian work,” Johnston says.

“Recent global events have seen Australia’s national capabilities like the C-17A come to the fore to assist our friends and allies.”

These events include the provision of support to the investigation into the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was carrying 38 Australian nationals, and disaster recovery operations following the 2010 Pakistan floods, 2011 Japanese tsunami, and 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

All of the RAAF C-17As are operated by 36 Sqn at RAAF Amberley near Brisbane.

“The aircraft is also currently supporting Australian and Coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East, providing a military long-range, strategic heavy airlift capability between Australia and the world,” Johnston adds. “The ability to rapidly react and move large elements of Australia’s support systems over long distances during these times has highlighted the need for us to have a good sized fleet.”

Johnston’s statement follows comments he made to media in mid-August where he described the requirement for additional C-17s, as well as two more Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports, as a “no brainer.”

If exercised, the four new aircraft would add to the six C-17As already in RAAF service. The first four aircraft were ordered under a rapid acquisition programme announced in early 2006, with the first of these being delivered in November of that year and the fourth in August 2008. A fifth aircraft was ordered in 2010 and delivered in September 2011, and the sixth was ordered in 2011 and delivered in November 2012.

Boeing announced in 2013 that it will cease production of the C-17 in 2015, and that, due to interest for additional aircraft from new and existing customers, that it would build about 10 unsold ‘white tailed’ aircraft. Apart from the two additional Australian C-17s, India has also expressed interest in adding to its fleet of 10 currently on order.

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