Boeing has revealed its latest thinking on how the C-17 heavy airlifter could meet the joint future theater lift (JFTL) requirement that is emerging in the U.S. The “Advanced Tactical C-17” would retain the basic wings and tail of the current C-17A, but feature a new fuselage that is four feet narrower and consists of more composite structure. The four P&W F117 turbofans would be upgraded to provide 13 percent more thrust.
The design would also feature a new advanced flap design; blended winglets; a tire deflation and inflation system for soft-field landings; and various avionics improvements to allow autonomous and precision landings, and enhanced self-protection. This “narrowbody” C-17 could fly into 1,500-foot airstrips carrying two Stryker combat vehicles, according to Boeing. It would be 15 percent more fuel-efficient than the C-17A, but retain the ability to cruise in commercial airspace at Mach 0.80.
Meanwhile, Boeing is “aggressively pursuing export sales,” according to Tommy Dunehew, Boeing vice president of C-17 business development. In addition to the 10-aircraft Indian requirement, Qatar has two options and the NATO fleet of three might be expanded if more European countries join the pooled scheme, Dunehew said. The production rate is being reduced from 15 to 10 per year over the next three years, without increasing the unit cost, he added. Unless new orders are confirmed, the last C-17 will be delivered in September 2012.