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Boeing Sees Exports Extending Life of C-17 Jet Factory

Boeing Co. expects that export sales will help extend the life of the California assembly line that builds the C-17 military transport, a program that had been targeted for termination.

“I do continue to be reasonably bullish we will achieve some additional international sales,” Dennis Muilenburg, the planemaker’s defense chief, said today in London at a briefing before the Farnborough air show starting tomorrow.

Boeing said in February that a decision was possible this year to shut operations at the factory in Long Beach, near Los Angeles, as orders for the four-engine C-17 jet dwindled amid cuts in U.S. military spending. Orders on the books will keep the line open until the third quarter of 2014.

The U.S. Defense Department awarded Chicago-based Boeing a $500 million contact on July 6 for the C-17’s “transition to post production.” That agreement includes asking Boeing to estimate the cost of ending production, said Chris Raymond, vice president for business development at the defense unit.

Boeing is seeking new customers and additional orders from existing buyers. New customers in the Middle East are seen as good prospects, while India holds options for six more planes and Canada, Australia and the U.K. may buy more, Muilenburg said.

“Hopefully we can build another of couple of years of line extension,” he said.

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