December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Industry Wrap

C-17 buy gets support

Key defense advisory group, Congress voice concerns over not boosting procurement beyond 180 aircraft

C-17Capitol Hill and an influential U.S. Department of Defense advisory panel last month voiced concerns over recommendations to not extend purchases of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military airlift aircraft.

According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a study by the Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation, which advises the U.S. secretary of defense, said the current order for 180 C-17s is sufficient for the U.S. military's needs. Delivery of the 180th C-17 is set for April 2008.

However, members of Congress disagreed with this opinion.

"This is a bad idea, and there is strong support for additional C-17s within the Congress," said U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., in the Post-Dispatch report.

The Senate approved a $491.6 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2006 on Nov. 15. The bill includes an amendment that would authorize the U.S. Air Force to purchase up to 42 new C-17s and create a new structure for the Pentagon to assess the need to build more lift aircraft, an Associated Press report said. According to a Defense Daily article, Talent said the amendment calls for buying 42 more C-17s because U.S. Transportation Command leaders have repeatedly said they need to raise the requirement to 222 aircraft.

"The C-17 is the finest military transport in the world," said Talent, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in the AP account. "This amendment is crucial to ensure that the United States has the airlift we need to deploy and sustain our forces overseas."

The bill now moves to conference committee for lawmakers to iron out differences between the separate defense-spending bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Also weighing in on C-17 procurement was the Defense Science Board Task Force on Mobility, which in a report recommended that the Air Force maintain the option to acquire additional C-17s beyond the current order of 180.

"The task force's concern is that production of the C-17 ends in 2008, and a decision to terminate production at the force level of 180 means that the department will live with the fleet of 100 aging C-5s and 180 C-17s [augmented by the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet] for many years to come in an environment of great uncertainty," the report said, according to a Defense Daily article.

Defense Daily said the Defense Science Board study acknowledged that the Pentagon has other desired capabilities it cannot afford. "However, in view of the prominence of organic strategic airlift in enabling rapid response to crises, the task force believes it is prudent to keep options open for the acquisition of additional C-17s," the report said.

The Defense Daily article said the board, made up of scientists and retired military officials, took note of a March 2003 airdrop of 1,000 paratroopers and the delivery of their equipment and supplies into northern Iraq. That mission took 32 C-17s, or 40 percent of the fleet at the time, 20 days to accomplish, according to Defense Daily's article on the report. But the airdrop involved only one Army battalion. Transporting a larger force would require as many as 96 aircraft for five days, or more than half the planned fleet of 180, the board said in its study.

The Pentagon is considering more than $15 billion in cuts in next year's budget, the Post-Dispatch said. The goal is to save money to help pay for the Iraq war.

'We are at decision time for continuing the C-17 program beyond the current contract," said Dave Bowman, vice president and C-17 program manager. "If there is no funding to continue the C-17 program in the 2007 Defense budget, we will begin to close down the program, starting first in our extensive supplier base."

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