Boeing Co has said it will cut back on production of the C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft by a third in order to extend the life of the assembly line, even as it awaits international orders. India is one of the nations that has expressed interest in acquiring at least ten such aircraft in order to fulfil its need for strategic airlifters.
Earlier, Boeing had said it would shut its factory in 2011 if no more orders were forthcoming. The factory line has come under risk of a shutdown as the Pentagon has said it would not be inducting any more of these aircraft.
The backlog of orders for the aircraft now stands at 36. The number includes 19 planes intended for the US Air Force, which might increase by another ten. It also includes six aircraft for the United Arab Emirates and one for the UK.
The aircraft received an unexpected boost to its longevity thanks to the many troubles its European competitor, the Airbus A400M, has run into. The badly delayed A400M programme, compounded by increased responsibilities of NATO forces in Afghanistan that have left these nations searching for long-range transporters, as their existing fleet of medium - range C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall aircraft have proved to be inadequate for the task.
According to Boeing officials, the company has been delivering about 15 C-17s a year since 2001, and reducing the annual rate to 10 will extend the line through September 2012. The plant currently employs 5,000 workers and the aircraft's supplier network supports 25,000 jobs in 44 US states.
The plane is a heavy-lift, strategic transporter with an intercontinental range and is capable of landing on short and unprepared runways.