Heavy Lifting Down Under: Australia Buys C-17sNov 27, 2012 11:13 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In March 2006, the Australian government announced that the Australian Defence Forces would acquire up to 4 new Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlift planes and associated equipment for A$ 2 billion ($1.49 billion then conversion). In April 2011, Australia upped their order to 5 aircraft, and will soon add a 6th plane to their fleet.
Since that first contract, RAAF C-17As have been rolling off the assembly line, arriving on or ahead of schedule, and flying the (un)friendly skies to support Australia’s military and humanitarian efforts around the globe. The first plane arrived in Australia in December 2006, and the 4th plane arrived in March 2008. Even that didn’t mean C-17 expenses were done. Ongoing maintenance, training facilities, and more must still be paid for, and Australia liked the Globemasters so much that it decided to buy more. DID chronicles the entire process, and its associated contracts.
Australia: Why the C-17?
Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III was in competition with the Airbus A400M to become Australia’s next-generation transport aircraft. While the A400M’s flyaway price tag of USD$ 120 million or so would be approximately half that of a C-17, in return for about half the payload and two-thirds of the cargo volume. Australia’s M1 Abrams tanks would not be transportable in an A400M. Indeed, the Long Beach Press-Telegram quoted industry observers who said that the C-17′s ability to tote Australia’s M1 Abrams tanks and CH-47 Chinook helicopters won over the Australian government. Another consideration was the fact that the rival A400M lacked even a test model at the time the decision was made. In hindsight, Airbus’ subsequent program delays have only validated the ADF’s choice of the heavier Boeing jet.
Australia’s government sums up their choice as follows: “One C-17A can carry up to four C-130 Hercules loads in a single lift, and cover twice the distance in three-quarters of the time of a C-130.”
C-17s are very capable planes. The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 lb (77,500 kg), and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 lb (265,350 kg). With a payload of 160,000 lb (72,600 kg) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 ft (8,500 m), the C-17 has an unrefueled range of 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km). The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3,000 ft (900 m) and as narrow as 90 ft (27 m). In addition, the C-17 can operate out of unpaved, unimproved runways (although this is rarely done due to the increased possibility of damage to the aircraft). The thrust reversers can be used to back the aircraft and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three-point (or in some cases, multi-point) turn maneuver.
The C-17 is designed to airdrop up to 102 paratroopers and equipment. In Australian terms, it ca also can carry one 60-ton M1 Abrams tank, as well as loads ranging from 5 Bushmaster infantry vehicles to 3 Tiger reconnaissance/attack helicopters.
Australia became the C-17 Globemaster III’s 3rd customer, after the USA and Britain. A slew of orders from other countries ensured that they were not the last customer, and helped keep the production line busy long enough to allow further Australian orders. Australia is basing No. 36 Squadron’s C-17s at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley near Brisbane, which will become the primary base for both its new C-17s and its A330 MRTT tanker aircraft. Amberly was home to Australia’s F-111 fighter/bomber fleet, and is undergoing the infrastructure upgrades required for these new roles.
Australia: C-17 Related Contracts & Events
Note that C-17 support is provided under a global support partnership with Boeing, which is covered separately. It’s also important to note that contract figures may not match government announcements. That’s because C-17 contracts with Boeing don’t include items like engines (another $35-38 million per plane), some internal equipment, accompanying spares, etc.
To celebrate its arrival, a flypast is conducted over Brisbane and the Gold Coast by 4 C-17As, including the latest aircraft. Each aircraft carried a different cargo load: 1. Abrams tank; 2. A pair of Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters; 3. A specialist medical team and equipment; and 4. Four Bushmaster blast-resistant patrol vehicles. Australia DoD.
Nov 1/12: #6 handover. Boeing hands over the RAAF’s 6th C-17A Globemaster III at the final assembly facility in Long Beach, CA. The delivery happened so fast because the U.S. government let Australia take a C-17 from one of their production slots. They can take delivery of their extra plane a little bit later. Boeing.
June 19/12: #6. Boeing in Long Beach, CA wins a $171.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy 1 base C-17A aircraft. Boeing has confirmed to DID that this order is for Australia, though it’s executed under the USAF’s framework contract for FY 2010, which also covered India’s 10 C-17s.
Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA, and will be complete by Nov 21/12. The ACS/WLMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, acts as Australia’s agent to manage the contract (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 0011).
March 19/12: #6 confirmed. Australia’s government announces that its 6th C-17A will be purchased through the United States Foreign Military Sales program, at a total acquisition cost of around A$ 280 million (about $297 million), for delivery early in 2013. This sounds like a contract, but there is no announcement yet from Boeing or from the Pentagon.
The government says that buying a 6th C-17A will double the number of C-17A aircraft they can make available for operations at any one time, from 2 to 4. Training and maintenance are especially significant in small fleets, but given the C-17′s 80%+ availability rates, the math is a bit of a head scratcher. It should be noted that the RAAF has used 3 C-17s on operations before, when responding to situations like the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Nov 15/11: Request for #6. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s official request for a 6th C-17A Globemaster III aircraft, plus 4 Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines, 1 AN/AAQ-24v13 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) defensive system, spare and repair parts, supply and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.
The estimated cost is up to $300 million, but extact figures will depend on a contract. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, CA will be the prime contractor.
Sept 26/11: 5th arrives, 6th intended. As the RAAF’s 5th C-17 arrives in Australia at RAAFB Amberley, the Australian government announces that it intends to buy a 6th C-17. Australia has sent a Letter of Request to the United States, beginning the contract process.
Sept 14/11: Training. L-3 Link Simulation & Training announces that it has assumed responsibility of RAAFB Amberley’s C-17 Training System (TS) for pilots, loadmasters and maintenance personnel. The work is actually done under the umbrella of a USAF C-17 TS contract, which adds RAAFB Amerley as the 11th site beyond the 10 installations in the United States.
Under the C-17 TS program, L-3 Link is responsible for program management, training device modifications, courseware development, instruction, and concurrency management between the training system and aircraft platform. sub-contractor and Textron subsidiary AAI Corporation is responsible for maintenance training device production and modification, and all C-17 TS contractor logistics support.
Sept 13/11: #5 handover. Boeing holds a ceremony in Long Beach, CA, handing over the keys to Australia’s 5th C-17. Boeing.
June 28/11: #5 contract. Boeing in Long Beach, CA receives a $195.7 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against the basic C-17 production contract, to provide 1 C-17A to Australia as a foreign military sale transaction. That’s a very good base price, in light of circumstances. Recall, however, that fairly expensive items like F117 engines, additional spares, and associated equipment like defensive systems, must still be bought separately. The engines alone tend to be around $35-38 million per plane.
Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA. The ASC/WLMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH will manage the contract on behalf of its FMS client (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 0008).
April 18/11: #5. The Commonwealth of Australia has signed an agreement with the U.S. government to acquire a 5th Boeing C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, and will take early delivery in August 2011 thanks to American cooperation. Boeing has confirmed that the new C-17 “is not a transfer; it’s a new order for the RAAF”, but the USAF is giving up a production slot, and will take a later delivery instead.
No figures are announced at this point. Past RAAF C-17As were USD $195 million each, plus additional funds for defensive systems etc. That’s not a reliable predictor, however, because Boeing was trying to extend its production line back then, and encourage an influx of allied orders. In contrast, 2011 features a slowed annual production line that places more fixed-cost burden on each aircraft, and no rush-order discount campaign. Boeing.
April 17/11: #5. Aviation Week reports that Australia’s 5th C-17 may come directly from the USAF fleet, rather than the production line. They add that Australia may be interested in a 6th C-17, possibly for joint operation with New Zealand, who has expressed interest in the concept.
NATO’s SAC program already offers time-share purchase of C-17 operating hours, but the planes’ location in Hungary would make charters by New Zealand slower to respond, and add flight transit time to the charter hours. That would make joining rather expensive. The question is: more expensive than what? Much will depend on Australia’s offer, and New Zealand’s perception of its need for assured response times.
“And separately, this week, the government’s also formally decided that we should acquire another C-17 large aircraft, and we’ll do that as quickly as we can. And this has been – this has arisen in part because of the great utility we’ve got out of our current C-17 fleet in disaster relief, both in Christchurch, the earthquake recently, but now as literally as we speak, also in Japan, so far as the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunamis concerned there. So we’re – we are very keen to pick up the Bay Class to cover that amphibious lift capability, and the C-17s have been a very useful asset for us, and getting another one will really help us in terms of our flexibility.”
March 9/11: 5th requested. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy 1 more one C-17, along with “up to 4″ Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines (the plane requires 4), an AN/AAQ-24V(13) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) defensive system against infrared guided missiles, plus spare and repair parts, supply and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support.
The estimated cost is up to $300 million, but actual costs will depend on negotiations for an actual contract with Boeing in Long Beach, CA.
March 1/11: Pour me a 5th? Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith confirms that the government is looking into buying a 5th C-17, and has sent a Foreign Military Sale Letter of Request to the United States asking about costs and availability.
The RAAF’s C-17s have performed well in the face of massive flooding in Queensland, and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, while supporting far-flung missions in Afghanistan. The tradeoff under consideration is whether to buy 1 more C-17A, or buy 2 more C-130J-30 Super Hercules tactical transports between 2013-12015 under project AIR 8000 Phase 1. One C?17A can carry up to 4 C-130 Hercules loads in a single lift, and cover twice the distance in three-quarters of the time. On the other hand, it costs over 3 times as much, and can’t be in 4 places at once. Australia DoD.
March 1/11: Infrastructure. Northrop Grumman announces that the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation has awarded them a contract its Expeditionary Tactical Automated Security System (ExTASS), to protect RAAF C-17s while at home air stations and during expeditionary operations.
ExTASS is an implementation of the Tactical Automated Security System (TASS), an open architecture platform on a mobile trailer that integrates a variety of sensors, and is designed for force-protection missions. The system provides for real-time detection and assessment of intrusion, and is also deployed at more than 100 sites worldwide by the U.S. military.
Feb 23/11: Training. Boeing, Defense, Space & Security in St. Louis, MO receives a $25.8 million contract for 1 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) physical C-17 simulator. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the ASC/WNSK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, who manages this Foreign Military Sale class transaction on behalf of Australia.
The basic model includes simulated aircraft systems; simulated aircraft structure; cargo compartment floor and rail systems; cargo compartment ramp and door; forward loadmaster station; aft loadmaster stations and remote panels; cargo compartment lighting; tie down equipment; aerial deliver systems equipment; cargo winch equipment; passenger/troop equipment; intercommunication equipment; and public address system.
Unique RAAF requests add all sidewall seating on the right and left sides of the cargo bay, plus aeromedical requirements: functional litter stations, functional hookups for oxygen, functional electrical outlets, and other equipment to support aeromedical training. That last item includes actual representation of a first aid kit, 36 litters, and a mock-up of the comfort pallet (FA8621-11-C-6299).
Nov 24/09: NAO report positive. Australia’s National Audit Office delivers its 2008-2009 Major Projects Report, [PDF] which includes the C-17 acquisition. Surprisingly, it was rated as an “ACAT II” program with high technical risk, despite the standard nature of its design and active foreign production line. Unsurprisingly, the C-17 rates as one of the best performers in terms of budget and schedule, coming in on budget and ahead of schedule. Expenditures to date are A$ 1.308 billion, out of the A$ 2.055 billion program budget.
Remaining expenditures will include increased stocks of long lead-time spares, role-specific snap-ins, and full ramp-up of Australian training devices and facilities. Full Operating Capability will be achieved when permanent C-17 Globemaster facilities have been established at major Royal Australian Air Force bases, and the training systems have been set up in Australia. That’s anticipated in 2011.
Nov 18/09: Training. The C-17 flight simulator is accepted at RAAFB Amberley, in Queensland. Boeing built the Simulator in the USA, transported it to Australia using 2 C-17s, and installed it in an Amberley facility that was purpose-built by the John Holland Group. Its installation means that beginning in January 2010, RAAF C-17 pilots will undertake their training at Amberley instead of traveling to the United States.
Continuation training for current RAAF C-17 pilots and loadmasters will begin on Jan 11/10, followed on Feb 1/10 by the first intake of new RAAF pilot students seeking initial qualification. Boeing Defence Australia will provide instructors for these courses, as well as scheduling and logistics support. Subcontractor Thales Australia will perform future maintenance on the training devices.
The Simulator is the centerpiece of Australia C-17 ATS. The complete system includes a Maintenance Trainer to be delivered in 2010, and a Cargo Compartment Trainer to be delivered in 2013. Australia is the only foreign C-17 operator to own a Simulator; the other 20 are owned and operated by the USAF. Australian DoD | Boeing.
Sept 5/08: Training. Boeing announces a $33 million U.S. Air Force Foreign Military Sales contract to provide a C-17 Aircrew Training System (ATS) to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The contract marks the first international sale of the system, which has been used by the USAF since 1992. The RAAF’s Heavy Air Lift Director, Group Captain Andrew Doyle, added that the RAAF had deliberately reduced the frequency of simulator training, in order to avoid long trips to the United States. With the new ATS in place, that will no longer be an issue.
The new ATS at the RAAF’s Amberley base will include a Weapons Systems Trainer, a loadmaster station, and a learning center. It will also use Boeing’s newly developed Virtual Cargo Load Model, a new training device that allows loadmaster students to practice configuring a variety of cargo loads on a laptop computer.
Boeing subcontractor Flight Safety International of Tulsa, OK is providing the hardware, while Boeing Support Systems is responsible for software development and integration as well as program management. Boeing Australia Limited will provide support. Boeing release.
March 10/08: #4 arrives. The RAAF’s 4th and final C-17 touches down at RAAF Base Amberley after making the journey from the US. The delivery has now been finalized within its agreed timeframe and within budget, and RAAF C-17s have already been involved in Operation Catalyst (Iraq), Operation PNG Assist, and Operation Astute (Timor-Leste), as well as several Australian Defence Force exercises. The RAAF is now working towards more complex roles, including the airdrop of personnel and cargo and high dependency aero-medical evacuation.
The Globemaster fleet will be operated by No. 36 Squadron out of RAAF Base Amberley. Full operational capability of the aircraft is scheduled for the end of 2011, with the completion of in-country training and permanent facilities for No. 36 Squadron. Related upgrades are also in progress at RAAF Bases Darwin, Townsville, Edinburgh and Pearce. Australian DoD: News Blog | Ministerial release.
Feb 12/08: #3 arrives. The RAAF’s 3rd C-17A arrives in Australia. The 4th Globemaster will arrive at RAAFB Amberley in early March. Australian DoD release.
Jan 18/08: #4 handover. Boeing delivers the 4th and last C-17A Block 17 to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during a ceremony at the company’s Long Beach, CA manufacturing facility. In 2008, a variety of air lift roles are planned to be cleared for Australia’s Globemasters, including aero-medical evacuation, in which the C-17 will be configured to carry 6 “high-dependency”/intensive care patients or 36 “low-dependency” patients. Australian Ministerial release.
With the delivery of this new airlifter, the worldwide C-17 fleet now includes 171 U.S. Air Force C-17s as well as 4 in the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and 2 in the Canadian Forces. The RAF and the Canadian Forces will each receive 2 additional C-17s in 2008, completing their orders. The U.S. Air Force is on contract to receive 19 more C-17s by mid-2009, whereupon their current orders will also be complete unless new planes are added to the program. Boeing release.
Sept 20/07: Infrastructure. The Minister for Defence announces the official go-ahead for Stage 3 of the redevelopment of RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. The Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works gave their approval, and that was then approved by Parliament. Construction is expected to begin in early 2008 with completion expected in late 2011.
Sept 20/07: Infrastructure. The Minister for Defence announces the official go-ahead for the C-17 Infrastructure project. Specifically, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works gave their approval, and that recommendation was approved by Parliament. Construction will commence in early 2008 around each of the 5 home and deployment bases.
May 30/07: Infrastructure. A Ministerial release announces that the Government will commit A$ 268.2 million (currently about $220 million) for The C-17 Infrastructure project, which will create the required permanent facilities and airfield pavements to support C-17 operations at RAAF Base Amberley, and expanded infrastructure at deployment bases RAAF Bases Edinburgh, Darwin, Pearce and Townsville. Subject to Parliamentary clearance of the works, construction is planned to start in early 2008 and is expected to be complete by 2011.
The release adds that this project will generate a significant amount of short-term employment opportunities for skilled consultants, sub-contractors and construction workers in each of the 5 regions that encompass the home and deployment bases.
May 30/07: Infrastructure. The Australian Government announces that it is committing A$ 331.5 million (currently about $271 million) for RAAF Base Amberley’s 3rd stage of redevelopment. RAAFB Amberley is located in the middle of Australia’s eastern coast, near Ipswich in Queensland. This stage of the redevelopment will include fuel farm works, training accommodation, medical and dental facilities, trainee living-in accommodation, combined messing facilities and office accommodation. Subject to Parliamentary clearance of the project, construction is expected to begin in early 2008 with completion expected in late 2011.
The efforts are meant to keep up with Amberley’s growth, including the newly arrived No 36 Squadron to operate the new C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, the planned relocation of 9th Force Support Battalion in late 2007, and the 2009 relocation of 33 Sqn from RAAFB Richmond in New South Wales once they begin receiving their KC-30B Multi-Role Tanker Transports.
Amberley currently supports Australia’s 22 F-111C/G fighter-bombers and RF-111C reconnaissance aircraft, and is slated to receive 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets as replacements when the F-111 are retired in 2010. RAAF Base Amberley is also home to 38 Sqn and its aged but incomparable DHC-4 Caribous; as well as providing support for RAAF units including the Headquarters of Combat Support Group, and the RAAF Security and Fire School and Airfield Defence Wing.
May 11/07: #2 handover. The RAAF takes delivery of its 2nd C-17 Globemaster III a month ahead of schedule, during a ceremony at the Boeing facility at Long Beach, California.
The aircraft will transport newly acquired Army Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats and their support equipment, along with C-17 logistical equipment, back to RAAF Base Amberley. It is expected to arrive on May 19/07. Australian DoD release | Boeing release.
Dec 12/06: #1 arrives. Australia’s first C-17A airlifter touches down at RAAFB Amberley.
Nov 28/06: Australia’s first C-17 is rolled out in “Block 17″ configuration. A black stallion on the C-17′s tail identifies the airplane as part of the RAAF’s No. 36 Squadron, an airlift unit that will be based in Amberley, west of Brisbane. After a December 4, 2006 welcome ceremony in Canberra, Australia, the aircraft will fly to RAAF Base Amberley on December 6th.
The aircraft arrived on schedule. Australian DoD Air Force newspaper.
Oct 5/06: GSP. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, CA received an $8.5 million cost-plus-incentive fee, fixed-price-award fee and time and materials contract modification. This is an undefinitized contract action for the FY 2007 portion of the Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III sustainment partnership program.
The RAAF has procured four C-17 aircraft (via a separate contracting action). This action will provide the sustainment of these aircraft over the course of FY 2007 to include aircraft maintenance, upgrade, and sustainment. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8614-04-C-2004/P00129).
July 31/06: 1-4 Ordered. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, CA received a $780 million firm-fixed-price, undefinitized delivery order contract that will provide 4 C-17 aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force ($195 million per plane). The C-17 system group, in accordance with air mobility command, has arranged for the reallocation of four C-17 aircraft delivery positions from the Air Force Multi-Year Procurement II (MYPII) contract, F33657-02-C-2001, for delivery to the RAAF. Negotiations were complete July 2006, and work will be completed in phases: 1st delivery November 2006; 2nd, May 2007; 3rd, January 2008 and 4th, February 2008 (FA8614-06-D-2006, delivery order 0001).
The Headquarters 328th Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract. The Public Affairs point of contact is ASC/PAM at 937-255-3334.
July 28/06: GSP. Boeing Co. in Long Beach, CA is awarded an $80.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ fixed-price award-fee/ time-and-materials contract modification. This contract modification is a foreign military sales requirement for Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 Globemaster IIIs to join the international C-17 Sustainment Partnership Program. This action incorporates the RAAF’s 4 aircraft into the C-17 “virtual fleet” which includes aircraft maintenance, upgrade, and sustainment. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH is the contracting activity (FA8614-04-C-2004/P00110).
The proposed plan will also require seven each U.S. Government and Australian representatives at the facility, plus the assignment of up to ten each U.S. Government and contractor representatives to travel to Australia for annual participation in training, program management, and technical review. Additional subcontractors may be needed depending on the exact nature of the contracting arrangements established. As part of its role, Boeing will establish a facility at RAAF Base Amberly to provide logistics support for the C-17. See also Boeing’s August 17, 2006 release.
April 3/06: Australia request. The formal DSCA request [PDF] includes:
- Up to four C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft
- Up to 18 Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines
- Up to four AN/AAQ-24V(13) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) Systems
- Up to 15 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles; plus
- Personnel Life Support equipment, spare and repair parts, supply support, training equipment and support, publications and technical data.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notes that this sale will involve the following contractors:
- Boeing Company Long Beach, CA
- Boeing Company Training Systems St. Louis, MO
- AAI Services Corporation Goose Creek, SC
- United Technologies Corporation East Hartford, CT
- Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation Rolling Meadows, IL
Appendix A: A New Day for Boeing’s C-17? (April 2006)
The timing of Australia’s initial order was fortuitous for Boeing, as C-17 production was expected to shut down in 2008, and each new C-17 aircraft ordered reportedly extends Boeing’s C-17 line by 3 weeks. Nevertheless, as Copley News Service explains, Boeing is slightly ahead of schedule and will be able to deliver the additional 4 aircraft without affecting its timelines for closure. The US Air Force had listed obtaining 7 more C-17s as its top unfunded requirement, however, and this could buy enough time to extend C-17 production into early 2009 while Boeing hunts for more orders [See DID's situation update].
The DSCA notes in conclusion that industrial offset agreements associated with this proposed sale are expected, but at this time the specific offset agreements are undetermined and will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and contractors.