Back to Square One on C-17s?:

While the 2007 defense authorization bill appeared to pull the C-17 production line out of the jaws of a shutdown, Boeing officials told reporters Monday that DOD needs to start thinking about its airlift needs—again. C-17 Program Manager Dave Bowman said that combining the extra 10 approved by Congress with the international market keeps the C-17 line open until the fourth quarter of 2009. However, the airlifter has a 30-month lead-time on securing some subcontracted parts and supplies—which means the Pentagon must commit in its 2008 budget request to procure any additional C-17s. “Clearly, mobility is an increasing requirement,” Bowman said, noting that Congress has instructed DOD to undertake an updated mobility requirements analysis. But analyses take time, so Bowman says that 12 aircraft in 2008 is the new magic number to ensure Boeing can sustain the line beyond 2009. “Twelve comes at the rate of producing 15 a year, which is the most efficient rate,” Bowman said. If a new mobility study takes over a year, he noted, that means another production line gap is imminent. He added, “The 10 directed from Congress was in the bottom of the ninth inning for us … which is why were at the very beginning of the next lot.”