The US Air Force plans to move ahead with the acquisition of an additional 60 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transporters. At the same time Boeing has tabled an unsolicited new proposal for an even larger multi-year procurement of up to 100 aircraft at a lower unit cost as the spectre of a new Asian conflict again focuses US military attention on airlift.

The USAF's Air Systems Command has posted a pre-solicitation for the sole-source acquisition of 60 C-17s from Boeing's Long Beach, California-based subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Government Aerospace. The air force plans to release a request for proposals later this month for a Lot 16 advance buy, which would secure continuity of production beyond delivery in late 2004 of the last of 120 C-17s currently on order.

Boeing has warned for some time that its faces a gap in production unless the USAF commits to buying more C-17s. The company, in anticipation of a new order, has already invested its own funds to protect the supply of long lead items for the 121st transport. Boeing recently revised an offer to build 60 additional C-17s at a rate of 15 per year for $152 million each in fiscal year 1999 dollars.


In the last week, the company is understood to have forwarded an alternative proposal for 100 additional C-17s for around $142 million an aircraft, following US Congressional approval for a $40 billion supplemental budget in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks. "We have discussed other totals; 60 is not the only number. If you go above 60 you get a price brake," says Boeing.

Congress previously gave the USAF approval to acquire 60 more C-17s if Boeing could cut the $232 million price by 25%. An order for 60 more would extend production at Long Beach to 2008 and bring the size of the C-17 fleet closer to the 210 originally planned. The aircraft would include replacements for 14 C-17s that will be converted for Special Operations Forces with additional avionics sensors and flare dispensers.

Boeing has proposed that the 60 new aircraft incorporate enhancements, including an increase in maximum take-off weight from the current 265,350kg (585,000lb) to 279,210kg, modified software and hardware and a new fuel tank inerting system. The aircraft would also include the new centre wing fuel tank, which became production standard from the recently delivered 70th aircraft.

Source: Flight International