SEATTLE ( TheStreet) -- Give the Boeing ( BA) C-17 production line another year.

The U.S. Defense Department said it has notified Congress that the air force of India has an interest in acquiring 10 of the C-17 Globemaster III, a prerequisite to negotiations on a deal.

Boeing's current order book extends the C-17 production line through September 2012. If India and the U.S. government reach agreement for a sale of the 10 C-17s, Boeing anticipates that the line would survive another year as a result.

"With this action, India is now one step closer to modernizing its airlift capabilities with the world's most advanced airlifter," Boeing said Monday, in a prepared statement. "The C-17, which is available now and without development risk, is the only airlifter that possesses true tactical and strategic capabilities." The company said its aircraft will help India to "meet its growing domestic and regional responsibilities."

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Romer said that the potential sale "strengthens the growing partnership between our two countries, and demonstrates our enduring commitment to sharing the world's best technology with India."

The Indian Air Force would use the C-17 to enhance its cargo capabilities: the aircraft can take off from a 7,000 foot runway, fly 2,400 miles and land on a runway that is 3,000 feet or less.

The C-17 is critically important to Boeing, providing about 8% to 9% of the revenue of Defense, Space and Security, Boeing's defense unit, Broadpoint Amtech analyst Peter Arment has estimated. "It would be difficult to replace," he said. Boeing's $68 billion in 2009 revenue was evenly split between commercial and defense aircraft. The cost of a C-17 ranges between $175 million and $230 million.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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