A side view of the C-17... a photo does not adequately capture the size of the beast.
The F117 engine, a derivative of the commercial Pratt & Whitney PW2000 engine, that powers the Globemaster and allows it to reverse with the help of thrust deflectors.
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 31st May 2010
Operation Cactus boosted India’s regional stature, when Russian-built IL-76 aircraft airlifted hundreds of paratroopers 2000 kilometers, non-stop, to the Maldives within 12 hours of a frantic SOS from that country’s coup-embattled president. With India’s fleet of 24 IL-76 aircraft now obsolescent, Indian planners have decided to buy Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III, widely acknowledged as the world’s most versatile military transport aircraft.
The downside: at over half a billion dollars apiece, the Globemaster is also the world’s most expensive air-lifter. With criticism rising of India’s US $5.8 billion purchase of ten Globemasters, Boeing now says that India could actually pay far less.
Responding to a question from Business Standard about the Globemaster’s high cost, Vivek Lall, the India chief of Boeing Defence Space & Security (BDS), has clarified by email that the US $5.8 billion, “is on higher side of what the actual cost could be…. India may not need all the services and items that the US Air Force is offering them. The final cost will be determined by the actual requirements of the Indian Air Force and after negotiations are held.”
In accordance with US law, the US Congress was notified on 23rd April that India wanted to buy ten C-17 Globemaster III aircraft directly from the US government (under the Foreign Military Sale, or FMS, programme) for an estimated US $580 million per aircraft. In contrast, the IL-76, can be bought for less than one-tenth that price: about US $50 million per aircraft.
The US $580 million tag could become even bigger if India buys secure communications (COMSEC) and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation aids, by signing two safeguard agreements that US law demands but New Delhi has so far rejected: the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA). The recent Congress notification indicates that India’s C-17s will not be fitted with COMSEC equipment; GPS security devices; and certain “Government Furnished equipment”.
The BDS chief, Vivek Lall, indicated that Boeing would provide alternatives to the COMSEC and GPS, but said, “We do not discuss detailed aircraft components as the deal is a foreign military sale and is between the two Governments.”
Business Standard has examined requests, placed to the US Congress over several years, for C-17 sales to NATO, Canada, Australia, UAE and Oman to determine how Boeing’s ex-factory price of US $200-220 million for each unfitted C-17 Globemaster escalates to US $580 million for each of the fully-kitted military aircraft that India is buying.
The data indicates that the basic military aircraft, built at Boeing’s Long Beach facility outside Los Angeles, California, costs about US $350 million. An additional US $150 million per aircraft goes on spare engines, maintenance spares, electronic protection systems, and logistics. Finally, Boeing’s global maintenance network for the C-17 --- called the Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership, or GSP --- charges US $75 million every three years --- i.e. US $25 million per year --- to ensure that each aircraft covered in this plan remains flying, functional and available almost 90% of the time.
Boeing has confirmed that India is joining the GSP and that the notification to the US Congress includes that cost.
Once India’s planned procurement of 10 Globemaster IIIs is completed, it will be the largest C-17 user outside the US, which operates 198 Globemasters. Other users are the UK (6 aircraft); Australia and Canada (4 aircraft); Qatar (2 aircraft) and NATO (3 aircraft).
Operating from short, mud-paved landing strips such as those on India’s borders, the C-17 can lift 75-tonne payloads to anywhere in China, Central Asia, the Gulf countries and much of south-east Asia, without refuelling. Capable of carrying 188 passengers, or 102 fully kitted paratroopers, Globemasters have brought out as many as 300 refugees during humanitarian missions from disaster zones like Haiti.
The C-17 can also transport a battle-loaded Arjun or T-90 tank, or a Chinook helicopter with its rotors dismantled.