05/10/2011 Boeing delivered
the first of six C-17 cargo jets Tuesday to the United
Arab Emirates in a multibillion-dollar deal supporting
the aircraft's production line in Long Beach. The UAE, a small, oil-rich nation bordering the Arabian
Gulf, plans to use its fleet largely for humanitarian
relief missions in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Designed to carry troops and heavy military
equipment like armored vehicles and tanks, the huge jet
has taken on an increasing role in delivering food,
water, medicine and other aid to disaster zones across
the globe. Most recently, C-17s owned by the United
States, Australia and Canada came to the aid of Japan in
the wake of that country's devastating earthquake and
tsunami, which left tens of thousands homeless.
Other C-17s have airlifted critical supplies,
personnel and even field hospitals to disaster zones in
Haiti, New Zealand, Chile and
Pakistan in the past year.
"It is with great pride
that we accept delivery of our first C-17, which will
help expand our ability to perform humanitarian and
strategic-lift missions in the region and around the
world," said Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Suwaidan Saeed Al
Qamzi, a UAE Air Force pilot and commander of the
nation's Air Defence. "The C-17's advanced
capabilities, high reliability, and mission readiness
rate met all of our requirements."
The UAE becomes
the C-17's sixth international customer, after the U.K.,
Canada, Australia, Qatar and a NATO-led force based in
Hungary. The U.S. Air Force also operates 210 C-17s
across the world.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom,
who visited Long Beach for the delivery, said Boeing's
production line, the last such facility in the state,
supports nearly 5,000 jobs in the city and more than
30,000 at parts manufacturers across America. "C-17s
are seen in the skies over California and around the
world delivering humanitarian aid to those in need, even
to the most remote runways in the world," Newsom said.
"My hope and mission is to make sure that we keep this
capability alive and keep this production line rolling."
Boeing will deliver three more C-17s to the UAE by
July, with two more scheduled for production in 2012.
Details of the six-jet deal were not released, but
C-17s cost about $250 million each, not including a
warranty-type package sold with most jets that includes
logistical support, spare parts and on-site repairs.
Prized for its ability to take off and land on
unpaved runways as short as 3,000 feet, the jet is
equipped with anti-missile defenses, can operate on
bio-fuels and fly 2,400 nautical miles without
refueling. In recent years, the jet has also been
equipped with gear that allows it to be turned into a
flying emergency unit capable of transporting up to 12
critically injured or sick patients.
In April, a
Qatari Air Force C-17 was used to ferry 15 seriously
injured fighters from outside the eastern Libyan city of Brega, where revolutionaries were injured in the
long-running battle to oust Libyan leader Moammar
Gadhafi. Other missions have spirited injured men and
women from battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
latest delivery from Boeing's sprawling plant next to
Long Beach Airport comes as India finalizes a 10-jet
deal worth an estimated $5.8 billion and expected to
help keep production going through 2013. Kuwait also has
ordered one C-17, Qatar is considering three more and
several other nations are in talks for purchases that
may sustain production and Boeing's nearly 5,000 local
workers well into mid-decade.