C-17B Maybe, But Not Army Green

Boeing’s VP for global mobility programs backed away from the suggestion that it was pursuing the Army as a buyer for its proposed C-17B variant, a version of its workhorse airlifter that could take off and land on shorter fields and would have improved self-protection capabilities. Boeing has said the C-17B would be ideal for segments of the Future Combat Systems. Speaking with reporters Tuesday at AFA’s Air and Space conference, Jean Chamberlin said that the C-17B will be able to fulfill missions traditionally performed by turboprop aircraft because the C-17 has increased and widened its operational capability since 2001 in the war on terror in which it has done far more landings in austere locations and forward operating bases than was at one time thought possible. The B model will be designed to land on airstrips of 2,000 foot or less and to carry two-plus FCS segments, she said, adding that it would be able to bridge the gap between the sunset of the C-130 fleet and the arrival of a Joint Future Theater Lift program (now pegged for first flight in Fiscal 2018 and delivery by 2020). Boeing could deliver a C-17B up to 10 years earlier than any JFTL concept and would be low risk, since a majority of the capability is already developed in the C-17A. Boeing believes that there is a market for between 40 and 60 of the specialized airframes around the world. As of now, USAF has said thanks but no thanks to the new B variant. However, when asked if the modifications for a B model could be retrofitted to the A models currently being delivered, Chamberlin said it was “technically feasible” to do so.