San Diego Union-Tribune

June 20, 2001

Air Force general wants more Long Beach-built C-17s


WASHINGTON The commander of the U.S. Transportation Command
said Tuesday the emerging new military strategy will require more long-range
airlift, including at least 60 additional Boeing-built C-17 transports. 

Air Force Gen. Charles T. Robertson predicted that the Pentagon soon
would accept Boeing's offer for a multi-year buy of C-17s beyond the 120
now under contract. He suggested possible options to meet the military's need for strategic airlift that could lead to the purchase of more than 200 of the four-engine jet transports, which are produced in Long Beach. 

"I think you'll see a commitment to a multi-year buy fairly soon, and then a
more refined answer in the (fiscal) '03 budget" on how many additional C-17s the Air Force will buy, Robertson said. 

The Air Force has contracted for 120 of the Boeing transports, called the
Globemaster III, to replace 258 aging C-141 Starlifters. The command now
has 114 Starlifters and 73 Globemasters. 

A spokesman in Long Beach said Boeing would like to complete a deal for
additional C-17s "preferably this summer, but definitely this year," to keep the production and supply lines running. 

"This year is very crucial," spokesman George Silla said. Although work on
the current contract will run through 2004, "now's the time to decide in order
to keep the suppliers going." 

Boeing has about 8,000 workers involved in the C-17 in Long Beach and
about 2,500 in St Louis and in Macon, Ga. Subcontractors employ another
30,000 people around the country, Silla said. 

Silla said Boeing has offered a fixed-price package for 60 more C-17s,
produced at the rate of 15 a year, for $152 million each. That compares to
about $190 million each for earlier C-17s. 

The Air Force also plans to buy 14 extra C-17s for the Special Operations
Command, but is working on the funding details, which Robertson expected
to be resolved in the 2002 defense budget amendments about to be sent to

Silla said Boeing would like to see advanced funding in the '02 budget for 15
aircraft, to be purchased in 2003. The C-17 production line is equipped to
handle 15 aircraft a year, but only eight currently are planned for 2003, he
said. Slowing production would increase the cost of each aircraft, he added. 

Robertson said the latest study of the military's long-range transportation
requirements demonstrated the need for at least 50 more C-17s, if the Air
Force decides to modernize the newest models of its C-5 Galaxy transports. 

But even more C-17s will be needed to carry out the expected new strategy
that emphasizes Asia, instead of Europe, and depends on moving U.S. based
forces quickly to foreign conflicts, he said. 

The Air Force also hopes to convince commercial air cargo firms to acquire
10 modified C-17s and make them available for military use if required.