The Ministry of Defence, which last week put its £500m short-term strategic airlift requirement out to tender, is denying it has decided to opt for the Boeing C-17 transport aircraft.
Some industry observers believe the Royal Air Force has made its preference for the C-17 clear. ‘Absolutely not,’ an MoD spokesman said. ‘We are looking at a much wider range of possibilities, which very much do include a range of former Soviet aircraft.’
In July this year, the Strategic Defence Review identified a requirement for four C-17 aircraft ‘or their equivalent’.
Boeing, in association with British Aerospace, is offering either the C-17 or its civil variant, the MD-17.
Invitations to tender also went to Airbus, Air Foyle, Brown and Root, HeavyLift and IBP/Rolls-Royce. These companies are offering the Airbus Beluga, the Antonov 124 and the Ilyushin 76.
Air Foyle, Heavylift and IBP all have experience of marketing and operating Russian aircraft.
The deadline for replies is 29 January. A decision on the winning company should be made by early in 2000.
Solutions sought include outright purchase, leasing and variations on the Public/Private Partnership approach (formerly the Private Finance Initiative).
BAe could win work to supply parts for Boeing as part of its collaboration deal to offer the C-17.
Boeing and BAe said last month that they had ‘identified new potential to expand their relationship in civil aerostructures build-to print work. Detailed discussions will take place in the next few months’.
It has been suggested that BAe could seal a £600m agreement to make aircraft parts for Boeing in return for help with a C-17 deal. BAe has dismissed such a move as ‘speculation’.