In September 2010, Kuwait added itself to the list of existing and potential Gulf Cooperation Council C-17 customers. Within the Gulf Cooperation Council, both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have bought the aircraft, even though they’re both small countries whose territories are well within the operating radius of smaller planes.
A hint of why might be found in neighboring Qatar’s decision to paint their first military C-17 in the bright colors of their national airline. C-17s that can deploy across oceans are a potent asset in a world that’s very short on advanced airlift. When disaster strikes, they boost the prestige and soft power of countries that possess them. If a Kuwaiti sale goes through, it could push total GCC fleet orders to 12 planes.
Contracts & Key Events
Feb 21/14: Flyout. Sources:
Feb 13/14: Delivery. Boeing delivers Kuwait’s 1st C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, handing it over in Long Beach, CA complete with a custom paint design. It isn’t the same paint scheme as national airline Kuwait Airways, it’s a high-visibility pattern that matches the black, white, red, and green of Kuwait’s flag. Kuwait also uses this pattern on its C-130 fleet. As Kuwait Air Force Deputy Commander Col. Abdullah Al Foudari explains:
“When this C-17 arrives to deliver humanitarian aid or disaster relief anywhere in the world, people in need will know that the aid came from Kuwait…”
GCC neighbor Qatar does the same thing. This is Boeing’s 260th C-17 delivery, and it will join almost all global C-17s in the C-17 GISP (Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program). Kuwaiti pilots fly the delivered plane to Kuwait the next day, capping more than a month of training, flights, and simulator work with the 17th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, SC. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers Kuwait Air Force’s 1st C-17 Globemaster III” | USAF AMC, “Kuwait Air Force receive 1st C-17 through 437th AW ‘Seasoning’ program”.
Jan 6/14: Rollout. Boeing hasn’t officially confirmed any orders from Kuwait, but aviation photographer Michael Carter has. He photographed a Kuwaiti C-17 painted in the same high-visibility white and striped pattern found on Kuwaiti C-130s, as it emerged from the Long Beach, CA assembly facility. The tail number is KAF-342. Sources: Aero Pacific Flightlines, “First C-17A for Kuwait Air Force on Long Beach flight ramp” (incl. photos).
Nov 24/13: 13 for ???. Defense News reports that the UK MoD is set to discuss buying a 9th C-17, which would bring the country very close to its original goal of 10. Meanwhile, Boeing has set aside 13 “no order yet” C-17s to be produced by the end of 2015, when its line will close. Boeing Defense VP Middle East and Africa, Paul Oliver, has said that the 13 are “earmarked for 3 [potential] customers,” and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are all reported to want some.
India has also made noises about expanding its order, but they’re unlikely to make decisions quickly enough to be a factor. So there’s a bit of gamesmanship when Oliver says that he’s “concerned about which customer is going to get left out in the cold,” but also some underlying truth. Sources: Defense News, “UK Shows Interest in Buying Another C-17”.
April 17/13: The US DSCA announces Kuwait’s request for a 2nd C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport, 4 F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, 1 AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning System, 1 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Set (CMDS), secure radios, precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, tactics manuals, personnel training and training equipment, ferry support during delivery, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.
Kuwait issued a similar DSCA request in 2010, but there is no record of them buying an aircraft – and as a Foreign Military Sale, there would have to be. This request explicitly raises their maximum to 2, and the DSCA says that:
“The provision of a second C-17 provides KAF a more robust regional airlift and long-range strategic airlift capability. The additional C-17 aircraft will allow the KAF to better participate in humanitarian support operations.”
The estimated cost is up to $371 million, but the exact amount will be negotiated with Boeing as the prime contractor. Multiple US Government or contractor representatives will need to travel to Kuwait for 5 years, in order to to establish and maintain operational capability. Sources: DSCA [PDF] | Long Beach Press-Telegram.
DSCA request: 1 more C-17
June 15/11: Flight International reports that:
“Unrest in the Middle East has shifted priorities in some key countries. This has prolonged discussions on potential deals with Qatar to purchase two more C-17s and with Kuwait to buy its first C-17, said Bob Ciesla, Boeing’s C-17 programme manager.”
Sept 24/10: The US DSCA announces Kuwait’s formal request to buy 1 Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft and associated parts, equipment and logistics support, in a complete package worth up to $693 million. This would be a Foreign Military Sale, unlike Qatar which bought its C-17s under Direct Commercial Sale rules, and reserves its FMS purchases for C-17 GSP support contracts. The request includes a C-17A aircraft, plus:
* 5 F117-PW-100 turbofan engines (4 installed, 1 spare)
* 1 of BAE’s AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS)
* 1 of ATK’s AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS)
* Plus aircraft ferry services, refueling support, precision navigation equipment, spare and repairs parts, support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and U.S. Government and contractor support.
Boeing is the prime contractor, of course, but the estimated cost of $693 million is well above the C-17’s historic purchases prices. This indicates that wide-ranging support contracts were factored into this price quote. The DSCA adds that implementation “will require the assignment of additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Kuwait. The number required will be determined in joint negotiations as the program proceeds through the development, production, and equipment installation phases.”
DSCA request: 1 C-17