Members of the 191st Air Refueling Squadron conduct air refueling operations in September with a C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Boeing's CEO of defense space and security announced the company will close its C-17 wide-body cargo plane production line in 2015 when international production wraps up. (Staff Sgt. Tim Chacon / US Air Force)
DUBAI — Boeing will close its C-17 wide-body cargo plane production line in 2015 when international production wraps up.
Dennis Muilenburg, the president and CEO of Boeing Defense Space and Security, said that a final decision has been made to close the line and dismissed a proposal to buy back the US Air Force’s oldest 20 C-17s in exchange for 20 new, deeply discounted aircraft.
“It’s a firm decision,” he said during a discussion with a small group of reporters at the Dubai Air Show. “In this environment, those are the kind of decisions we have to make.”
Muilenburg cited US defense spending cuts through sequestration and uncertainty as part of the reason for making the decision.
“We can’t simply can’t continue to keep lines open without clear, long-term production runs,” he said.
Despite the pending production line closure, Middle Eastern nations’ interest in the Middle East remains high. Boeing is building 13 C-17 on its own even though deals for the aircraft have not been finalized.
The remaining aircraft will likely be split between the Middle East and Asia-Pacific customers, Muilenburg said.
While Muilenburg declined to give a country-by-country break down, he noted Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in the aircraft and India has interest in adding to its planned fleet of 10 aircraft.
The Boeing defense boss also shot down an idea floated earlier this year of trading out the US Air Force’s oldest 20 C-17s for new ones and a discounted price and then refurbishing the older aircraft and offering them on the international market.
“It’s an idea that was discussed, but not something that we’re moving forward with,” Muilenburg said. “We explored those options, but we’re simply not able to come to an economic conclusion on that that would work for all the parties.”
International P-8 Interest High
Boeing is seeing a lot of international interest in its P-8 Poseidon in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, Muilenburg said, noting countries’ requirements across the Middle East for airborne ISR.
While Muilenburg said he did not expect any decision or announcements made for ISR aircraft at the air show this week, he said: “The fact that we have a P-8 here should tell you that interest is high and that it’s current.”
A US Navy P-8 was among the US military aircraft on display this week in Dubai.
“One of the reasons we have P-8 here is interest to customers here in the region. We think there could be potential downstream sales building on the fact that the US Navy is now ramped into production,” Muilenburg. “Just being at the very beginning of that new production line is an ideal time for international customers to get on board.”