Is It Too Late, Too Little?

Thirteen NATO allies have signed a letter of intent to buy C-17 transport airplanes, unveiling a much-needed airlift plan. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, predicted last month that a proposal to buy Boeing C-17s was imminent, but whether this formal request will enable Boeing to keep its C-17 line open beyond 2009 remains to be seen. A NATO statement indicates the alliance has spent six months developing its “NATO Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC),” an airlift plan that calls initially for three to four C-17s. A NATO agency has begun negotiations with Boeing, and because the alliance views gaining a strategic airlift capability as urgent, it expects to wrap up contract negotiations by year’s end, so it can receive the first airplane at least by late 2007.