India is looking to acquire at least 10 Boeing C-17 tactical transport aircraft as part of its plan to increase its airlift capabilities.

New Delhi issued a request for information to the US Air Force in February asking how much it would cost to own and operate a fleet of the aircraft, says Boeing. Any contract will be through the US government's foreign military sales mechanism.

"The USAF is handling this but we understand that India needs 10 aircraft. Delivery timelines are not clear at this stage," says Jean Chamberlin, vice-president for global mobility systems at Boeing. She was unable to say when a contract would be signed.

Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, chief of the Indian air force, told Indian media the deliveries would begin three years after a contract. The aircraft will replace some of the service's 20 Ilyushin Il-76 heavylift aircraft.

Chamberlin says Boeing hopes to conclude negotiations with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 and complete the deliveries of all four C-17s it has ordered by the end of 2010. The NATO Strategic Airlift Capability, which has ordered four aircraft, will receive its first C-17 at Papa, Hungary on 27 July. The rest will follow soon after.

On potential customers coming out of the delays to the Airbus A400M, she says there have been informal chats with those who had wanted to take delivery of the aircraft in 2009 or 2010 and therefore face a capability gap. "These are informal conversations with potential customers, but there have been no discussions on quantity. There is no request for information or proposals before Boeing."

The C-17 is now in use with the air forces of Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. Qatar has ordered two, and other potential customers include Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Source: Flight Daily News