C-17 alternatives

FOLLOWING A REQUEST from the US Air Force for a non-developmental airlift aircraft (NDAA) to supplement the C-17A, which may now be purchased in much lower numbers than planned, 11 companies have put forward proposals. The USAF has been asked to collect information on potential NDAA aircraft and an NDAA system programme office has been established to assess the most cost-effective alternatives.

Options offered include a wide range of both new and used aircraft. As expected, Boeing has offered its 747-400F, McDonnell Douglas the MD-11, and Lockheed a new production version of the C-5 Galaxy. McDonnell Douglas has also suggested a lower cost commercial variant of the C-17, dubbed MD-17, which would be much more basic with some of the military equipment deleted.

Other offers include Aerospatiale’s option of any of the larger Airbuses — the A300, A310, A330, or A340; Alenia teamed with Aeronavali and Dee Howard to offer refurbished DC-10s; CFM International in conjunction with Northrop Grumman come up with a re-engined C-141B Starlifter; Chrysler Technologies in conjunction with American Airlines, Federal Express and McDonnell Douglas also offered DC-10s; E- Systems Inc proposed second-hand 747s, DC-10s or TriStars; Wolf International Airlines Inc suggested a choice between An- 124s, ll-76s, DC-10-10/30s or TriStar 220/300s.

In addition, AAR Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Services Co have shown an interest but have not yet specified which type of aircraft they would be offering. As part of the NDAA evaluation, six days of USAF-sponsored trials were recently undertaken at McChord AFB, Washington, using civilian Boeing 747-400F and MD-11 aircraft and a USAF KC-10. Each aircraft was loaded and unloaded with 2½ and 5-ton trucks, Humvees, trailers and pallets to assess its suitability as a military transport.

At present it is uncertain which way the decision will go on the C-17. The Pentagon does not want to spend the $550 million which the House Armed Services Committee has allocated for NDAA in FY1995 until it is certain how many C-17s will be bought, which will be subject to analysis of future overall airlift requirements and dependent on the final outcome of the C-17 flight test programme.

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