Continuing production of the C-17 Globemaster airlifter into the next decade now seems assured. Boeing officials are quietly confident that the U.S. Congress will add another 15 of these airplanes to the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, following similar action for FY09. The company also expects “at least 15 more international orders,” according to Dave Bowman, until recently Boeing’s v-p and general manager for mobility systems. The international total includes two or three for Qatar, confirmed recently, and two or three for NATO. “We expect to get the last few signatures on the NATO MoU in the next two months from Italy, Poland and Romania,” another Boeing official told AIN. “The Qatar order will prompt other Middle East countries to buy the C-17,” he claimed.
Moreover, Boeing is pitching a new version designated C-17B for the joint future theater lift (JFTL) requirement that was issued recently by the U.S. Air Force. This envisions a new design that would enter service in 2020 to carry the U.S. Army’s future combat system (FCS) of armored vehicles. Fifteen brigades are scheduled to be equipped with FCS, and Bowman noted that the first of these should be operational in 2015, five years before the JFTL airplane. Further, the FCS vehicles are 100-percent roll-on, roll-off, and cannot be carried properly by side-loading freighters, such as the KC-10, future KC-X or chartered commercial equivalents. Boeing’s answer is to equip the C-17 with increased thrust; modified flaps for slower and steeper descents; and additional centerline landing gear to provide better traction on unprepared landing strips. “The C-17B could meet 80 percent of the JFTL requirement for only 10 to 20 percent of the development cost and be available in 2015,” said Bowman.