UDPATED – The RAAF could operate a total fleet of up to 10 Boeing C-17A Globemasters after Defence Minister Senator David Johnston announced on Friday that Australia is to acquire at least two additional C-17s and is considering the acquisition of a further two examples of the heavylift transport.
Six C-17s are already in service with the RAAF’s 36 Squadron, based at Amberley west of Brisbane.
“Should the government elect to exercise this option, the two extra Globemasters would significantly enhance the Royal Australian Air Force’s capacity for operational tasks, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in our region and around the world,” Minister Johnston said in a statement.
Further, the Minister said that the government has requested pricing and availability data through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program for a further two C-17s, which would take the total RAAF fleet to 10. Decisions regarding the acquisition of the ninth and tenth aircraft are being informed by the Force Structure Review being developed as part of the 2015 Defence White Paper process, he said in a statement on Friday.
“Since the first delivery in 2006, we have seen the C-17A Globemaster perform exceptionally well at the forefront of Australia’s military operations and humanitarian work. Recent global events have seen Australia’s national capabilities like the C-17A come to the fore to assist our friends and allies.”
The additional C-17s would integrate seamlessly into the existing fleet based at RAAF Base Amberley, the Defence Minister added.
The Minister first revealed the government was considering extra C-17s in an August interview with News Limited, where he called the acquisition a “no-brainer“.
The opportunity to acquire additional C-17s is limited. Boeing is currently building its 269th and last C-17 at its Long Beach, California plant, with production due to wind up next year. However, the company is building 15 “white tail” aircraft without a customer to date. India (which already has 10 on order) is reportedly interested in a numbr of these, and Boeing remains in ongoing discussions with other existing C-17 operators and potential new customers regarding the remaining aircraft.
Australia initially ordered four C-17s in 2006 which were delivered between December that year and January 2008. The fifth and sixth aircraft were delivered in 2011 and 2012.