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Boost From Britain?

While their Boeing Co. colleagues across the runway in Long Beach await news about a possible new jet assembly line, workers on the C-17 military transport program see a bright future.

A new report on British military needs specifically mentions the C-17 in several places--an endorsement that seems to ensure that the local plant will get its first overseas orders for the airlift plane.

“Everywhere they mention strategic airlift or large airlift aircraft, they always mention the C-17 ‘or equivalent,’ ” said Rick Fuller, spokesman for the Boeing C-17 program. “We think that’s a very strong message that we’re the preferred aircraft, and that’s very good news for us.”

The newly released Strategic Defense Review, a report considered Britain’s military master plan, highlights the short-term need for four “C-17 or equivalent” planes, and also lays out long-term needs for additional airlift planes.

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In the coming months, Britain is expected to request bids for both the short- and long-term airlift and transport needs, Fuller said.

“We’ve got a long way to go to get the orders, but obviously we’re the plane that they want,” he said.

The C-17 program, which employs about 8,200 workers in Long Beach, has orders for 120 planes. With 40 of those already delivered, the remaining U.S. orders would stretch production through 2004.

New orders--from Britain and elsewhere--would extend the life of the program.

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