Australia could buy a fifth Boeing C-17 strategic transport, although such a deal could see the country forgo two Lockheed Martin C-130Js that it was also considering.
Speaking at Australia's Avalon air show, minister of defence Stephen Smith said that Canberra is formally seeking availability and pricing information for one additional C-17 through the USA's foreign military sales programme.
The Royal Australian Air Force's four C-17s were delivered between 2006 and 2008, and the first became operational in 2007.
© Cpl Christopher Dickson/Australian Department of Defence
Smith highlights the C-17's utility in humanitarian missions stemming from natural disasters within Australia and elsewhere in the region.
Smith says that if a follow-on C-17 purchase happens, it would mean that Australia would "almost certainly" not buy two additional C-130Js under project Air 8000 Phase 1. The nation had been expected to make a decision whether to buy the additional C-130Js between 2013 and 2015.
The Australian government points out that a single C-17 can carry "up to four C-130 loads in a single lift and cover twice the distance in three-quarters of the time".
Australia's Department of Defence says: "Following receipt of cost and availability information from the United States, the government will make a decision about purchase based on capability, cost and schedule assessments of an additional C-17."
The news comes as a welcome boost for Boeing, which is also awaiting the confirmation of a planned 10-aircraft C-17 deal with India.