Crunch time is rapidly approaching for air forces that have been mulling the purchase of Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III.
With 147 of the US Air Force’s order for 180 completed and orders needed by mid-year if a 2008 production gap is to be avoided, Boeing is already having to offer assistance to some long-lead suppliers to “keep them engaged” in the programme, said John Sams, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ vice-president for mobility programmes speaking at the show yesterday.
“Our long-lead suppliers have begun completing work on the 180th aircraft, so Boeing has taken it on their risk to keep them engaged,” said Sams at the show yesterday. “We’ve asked suppliers to stay with it and, in some cases, we’ve helped them do that.”
The most hopeful prospect for extending the C-17 production run comes from Australia. Boeing has been nurturing Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) interest in the type for five years, and this interest has increased recently. This is partly due to Australia’s growing role in coalition activities, which requires its air arm to move large quantities of men and materiel long distances to theatres such as Afghanistan. The RAAF would require four aircraft.
Sweden, traditionally heavily involved in UN peacekeeping missions, is interested in a similar number of aircraft, while Norway is considering purchasing two.
The UK Royal Air Force already plans to buy a fifth C-17 and to purchase outright its four machines currently on lease.
An indication of the demand for the C-17’s capabilities in RAF service – mostly due to the UK’s involvement in Iraq – can be seen from the fact that the four-strong fleet was originally budgeted to attain 3,000 hours per year. That figure has almost tripled, says Boeing.
Source: Flight Daily News