Monday, April 18, 2011

Royal Australian Air Force announces purchase of 5th C-17A

Australia is purchasing its fifth Boeing C-17 jet, which the country intends to use for its increasing role in international relief operations.

The Royal Australian Air Force purchased its first Long Beach-built C-17 in 2006, with the latest purchase set for delivery in August.

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith praised the C-17 in a recent speech, saying the huge aircraft has played "an essential part in Australia's capacity to respond to natural and regional disasters."

The price tag was not released, though C-17s cost anywhere from $250 million to $800 million, depending on warranties, options and other factors.

Australia's existing C-17 fleet has been in near-constant use in recent months, helping deliver medicine, food, water, vehicles and other equipment to earthquake disaster zones in New Zealand and Japan.

In just two weeks in March alone, RAAF C-17s ferried 1 million pounds of cargo, including pumps to help cool Japan's devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Australian officials are also reportedly considering purchasing a sixth C-17, which may be stationed at a base in neighboring New Zealand, a close ally.

"Given the significant work that is being undertaken by our current fleet of C-17 aircraft in support of operations, including recent disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and the unpredictable nature of some these events, we are considering the acquisition of an additional C-17 now," Smith said.
The airlifter, which can take off and land on short unpaved runways and in extreme climates, will be based near Brisbane on the country's east coast.

The C-17 can transport large payloads across vast ranges, land on short, austere runways, and operate in extreme climates. On April 14, Boeing delivered to the U.S. Air Force, its 210th C-17. Other countries owning C-17s are Canada, United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar and NATO. In total, Boeing has delivered 230 of the jets.

In addition, the United Arab Emirates has ordered six for delivery this year and in 2012, while India and Kuwait have placed orders for a total of 11.

Several other countries are also reportedly interested, though no firm commitments have been announced.

The C-17 plant next to Long Beach Airport is California's last fixed-wing aircraft assembly plant and one of just three left in the nation.

It supports nearly 5,000 jobs in Long Beach, including about 1,800 on the assembly line.

International orders have pushed scheduled production into late 2013, though more purchases are needed to keep the plant open beyond 2014.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram) 

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