The Air Force will pay Gulfstream nearly $50 million to maintain its C-37 executive jets, in a contract announced Thursday, the day before the U.S. government was set to absorb $85 billion in automatic spending cuts to military and domestic programs. The C-37 is based on the Gulfstream V; according to an Air Force fact sheet, the service has nine of them.
News of the contract was reported by the defense industry blog Intercepts, where Aaron Mehta says he was paying particularly close attention to the Department of Defense's daily announcement of contracts on the eve of the "sequestration" deadline.
"Obviously, the C-37 serves an important purpose of transporting high level officials around while maintaining their contact with key military decision makers," Mehta writes. "And the last thing anyone wants is one of these planes to break down while transporting someone around the world. But from a sheer visual standpoint, it's kind of funny to see these jets getting a multi-million-dollar award hours before sequestration began."
The officials who use the C-37 include members of Congress. The aircraft made headlines in 2009, when the House voted to give the Air Force $200 million to buy three of the luxury jets — two more than had been requested.
Last year, the Aeroweb site reported that the price of a new C-37 was $66.19 million in 2011. The Air Force evidently paid about $36 million for a new one back in 1998. Updated versions of the original Gulfstream V are now designated G500 and G550.
This isn't to suggest there's anything improper with the contract itself. But the news of a large expenditure on luxury jets seemed out of step with senior military officials' warnings of furloughs and other hardships.
As for the Department of Defense's new list of contracts released Friday afternoon, after the "sequestration" deadline passed, the list starts with a $49.4 million deal with Bayer, "for various pharmaceutical products."