Kuwait $693 Million C-17 Deal

LONG BEACH - The tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait is ready to spend nearly $700 million for a single Boeing C-17 backed by a long- term global maintenance and support plan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The deal comes as foreign interest in the Long Beach-built aircraft has surged in recent months, increasing hopes here that the plant and its 5,000 workers will remain busy well into the decade.

The Kuwait proposal was revealed as details for a 10-jet, $5.8- billion deal for the Indian Air Force are being finalized in Washington, where Congress holds ultimate authority for U.S. military sales abroad.

The Pentagon said Kuwait is seeking a jet to ferry humanitarian aid and workers to hot spots around the region.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO ally which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Kuwaiti Air Force wants Boeing's most advanced C-17, which includes anti-missile defenses, in-flight refueling capabilities and four Turbofan engines.

The package also includes an extensive maintenance and support plan, a spare engine, extra parts, crew training and on-the-spot repair at bases across the world.

If approved, the jet would likely be built between 2012-2013, and would put Kuwait among a small but growing list of international C- 17 owners.

In addition to the U.S., which owns more than 200, the C-17 has been sold to the United Kingdom, Australia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Canada and NATO.

In addition to India and Kuwait, Boeing is also negotiating possible sales with Saudi Arabia, Oman, South Africa, Pakistan and reportedly Egypt, among others.

In a memo to Congress, the Pentagon said Kuwait wants the C-17 for "relief support, humanitarian disaster and peacekeeping missions, as well as transporting dignitaries and cultural assets to various regional and international destinations."

Designed to takeoff and land on short, unpaved runways and run on bio-fuel derived from animal fat, the hulking jet has become one of the globe's most widely used cargo planes in recent years, ferrying supplies, personnel and even injured and sick to and from war zones and disaster sites.

The C-17 played prominent roles in such disasters as the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, Indian Ocean tsunami and recent Pakistani floods, where more than 500,000 people have been left homeless.

Foreign demand is expected to keep production humming past the scheduled 2013 closure of the C-17 plant next to Long Beach Airport, maintaining California's last airplane production site and one of only three such facilities in America.

Some 5,000 are employed in Long Beach engineering, designing, building, marketing and repairing the roughly 220 C-17s in circulation internationally.

By Kristopher Hanson, Kristopher Hanson, Staff Writer
Publication: Press - Telegram (Long Beach California)
Date: Wednesday, September 29 2010