Australia is mulling the acquisition of four Boeing C-17s, but will probably have to make its mind up by the end of June. Unless the U.S. Congress modifies the Pentagon’s fiscal 2007 budget by funding additional production for the U.S. Air Force beyond the 180 already purchased, the C-17 line will close in April 2008.
According to John Sams, Boeing vice president for mobility programs, Australia would pay $220 million per airplane, through the foreign military sales system. Sams said that Boeing has already protected the longest-lead-time production items, by funding the suppliers, just in case more orders are forthcoming. Norway and Sweden also have “great interest” in the C-17, according to Sams.
But despite the C-17’s formidable capability as a strategic-to-tactical airlifter, the aircraft’s equally formidable price tag has so far deterred all export prospects except the UK. The Royal Air Force acquired four, and wants one more, to which it must also commit in the next few months.
Australia’s interest in the C-17 firmed as a result of recent natural disasters, in which the aircraft played a vital role in providing timely relief supplies and evacuation capability. Sams described C-17 operations into Thailand and Indonesia after the Tsunami; into the southern U.S. after Hurricane Katrina; and into Pakistan after the earthquake last October.