by Ray Jaworowski, Forecast International.
The number of white tail C-17 aircraft being built by Boeing before closure of the production line later this year is now down to five. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has decided to acquire two C-17s in a move that will bring the service’s C-17 fleet to eight aircraft.
According to the Australian Department of Defence, the acquisition of the two C-17s and associated equipment and facilities represents an investment of AUD1.0 billion ($767 million). Of this amount, a total of AUD300 million ($230 million) will be spent on upgraded facilities at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, including a dedicated maintenance hangar and increased apron and taxiway space to cater to aircraft such as the C-17 and the KC-30 tanker.
The first of the RAAF’s two additional C-17As are to be delivered within six months of the initial order. The second C-17A is to follow within 10 months of that delivery.
Meanwhile, Boeing intends to end C-17 production in mid-2015. Over the past year or so, the company has been busy trying to find customers for a number of white tail C-17s that it is building on its own dime, in anticipation of securing future orders. At one time, Boeing had intended to build 13 white tails but, in April 2014, reduced this total by three aircraft. Since then, it has found customers for five of the 10 planned white tails. Besides the two aircraft for the RAAF, the UAE Air Force is acquiring two C-17s and the Royal Canadian Air Force already took delivery of one C-17 this past March.
This leaves Boeing with five white tail C-17s. Once completed, these aircraft will be placed by Boeing into storage until they can be sold and delivered. Among the prospects to acquire C-17 white tails are Algeria, India, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, and the U.K.