Boeing Banks on Cost Effectiveness of C-40 to Deliver Foreign Sales
Boeing has begun pitching its C-40 transport aircraft currently in use by the Navy and Air Force to international customers. Many countries around the world already own strategic airlift assets, but Boeing executives believe foreign militaries need a cheaper way of transporting troops and equipment.
The company is not trying to position the C-40 as a competitor to tactical and strategic airlift like Lockheed Martin’s C-130, said Paul Oliver, Boeing’s vice president of Middle East and Africa. The C-40 cannot land on unimproved runways or have armored vehicles driven into its cargo bay the way purpose-built military transport aircraft can.
However, Boeing’s plane can fly faster and traverse longer ranges than the C-130J at almost one-third of the latter aircraft’s cost per flying hour, he said at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference held this February in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
“I’m not saying we go in and replace every C-130 or every tactical [airlift] aircraft out there,” he said. “What you’re really trying to do is use your tactical airlift and your strategic airlift for what they’re designed for: unimproved runways, roll on/roll off capability, going into harm’s way and all that stuff.”
The C-40 is based on Boeing’s next-generation 737 commercial airliner, over 5,000 of which are in service around the world, Oliver said. The military version has a strengthened fuselage, cargo-handling door and modified floors that can be reconfigured with pallets, passenger seating or medical litters.
Boeing is marketing the product primarily in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly to countries that are home to commercial airlines that operate the 737 “because they have a built-in support system the moment the airplane shows up,” he said. “You have maintainers, you have pilots, you have supplies [and] everything else.
“If you need a part, if you need service, you can get this airplane worked on anywhere, and I don’t mean within days, I mean within hours,” he added.
The company is under contract with the Navy for 15 C-40s and has delivered 13 so far. Oliver said he expects Boeing will receive a follow-on contract from the sea service that will keep the C-40 line humming even if it fails to find a foreign buyer.