Defence Minister Stephen Smith has announced the RAAF will buy a sixth Boeing C-17A transport.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the delivery of the RAAF’s fifth aircraft in the fleet, A41-210, at Amberley on September 23, Minister Smith said a formal Letter of Request had been submitted to the US government the previous day for the purchase of a sixth aircraft through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.
Smith said the fifth and sixth aircraft will effectively double the RAAF’s heavy airlift capability from the original fleet of four aircraft when allowing for scheduled and unplanned maintenance. He said recent natural disasters in our region including Cyclone Yasi, the Christchurch earthquake and the Japan tsunami, as well as the C-17’s ongoing support to Australian forces deployed in the Middle East, had repeatedly proven the aircraft’s utility, and that the capability offered by the aircraft “underlines Australia’s regional influence” and our responsibility as an “international citizen.”
The original fleet of four C-17s, which was announced in February 2006 and delivered from December that year, was bolstered earlier this year by the acquisition of the fifth aircraft, which was ordered in early April. The fifth aircraft was delivered in a remarkable 142 days after it was ordered due to an urgent requirement from the RAAF to cover heavy maintenance of its first C-17, but assuming both the US and Australian governments approve its purchase on schedule, the sixth aircraft isn’t expected to be delivered until the fourth quarter of 2012.
In order to accommodate the two new aircraft, the RAAF expects additional ramp and hangar space and terminal facilities will be required at the northern end of Amberley where 36SQN’s C-17s and the growing fleet of KC-30A MRTTs of 33SQN – expected to number four by early next year – are based.