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The C-17 Globemaster III, a beloved workhorse of military transport, may see a second life. At the World Defense Show in Saudi Arabia, Boeing’s vice president Torbjorn Sjogren revealed renewed interest from existing operators in purchasing more C-17s if production resumes.

In 2013, faced with a lack of orders, Boeing made the difficult decision to end C-17 production. This news was met with disappointment from many air forces around the world, including the Indian Air Force (IAF), which is the second-largest C-17 operator after the US Air Force.

The IAF had previously secured approval for the purchase of 3 additional C-17s after acquiring 10 in an earlier deal. However, delays in the process meant they ultimately only managed to purchase one more, but this last unit was acquired after intense competition from Australia and the UAE.

Boeing Vice President Torbjorn Sjogren acknowledged interest from existing operators like India, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. However, restarting production requires significant investment and justification. Defence analysts have said that a combined order of 40-50 units from these nations, including potential new customers like Saudi Arabia, would be crucial to make it economically viable.

The IAF’s ageing fleet of Russian-supplied IL-76s necessitates replacements, making them potential customers for additional C-17s. Their earlier struggles to secure the final units highlight their commitment to the platform. However, India’s procurement process can be slow, requiring a clear long-term commitment from other nations to influence Boeing’s decision.

Reopening a production line involves significant investment and logistical considerations. However, the potential demand from multiple countries, coupled with the aircraft’s proven capabilities and versatility, makes it a commercially viable proposition for Boeing.

While the future of C-17 production remains uncertain, the renewed interest from existing operators and the potential for a combined order from multiple countries offer a glimmer of hope. If Boeing decides to take the plunge, it could mark a significant development in the world of military transport aircraft and provide a much-needed boost to air forces around the world.

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