Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who has used the Persian Gulf war to push weapons systems ranging from the B-2 Stealth bomber to the Strategic Defense Initiative, is now also using it to also push the C-17 transportation aircraft.

Hansen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday, "Engaging in a major conflict half way around the globe underscores the need for a well-developed, well-equipped supply system. Supply lines are lifelines for our troops."He added, "Because our supply of cargo aircraft is increasingly dated and inadequate, the military has had to charter substantial numbers of civilian aircraft to meet logistical needs" and use Navy ships to carry heavy items to the Persian Gulf.

Hansen said proceeding with the C-17, the larger next-generation transport plane, could help solve some of those problems.

"Although the C-17 doesn't share the same glamour as a Stealth fighter or cruise missile, it shares an equally important role in the modern military," Hansen said.

He said if the military hadn't had months to transport supplies to the Persian Gulf before the war began, the current C-5s and C-141s would not have had sufficient time to handle the buildup.

"Had Saddam Hussein unleashed his army into Saudi Arabia in the early days of our deployment, I have no doubt there would have been a terrible loss of American lives," Hansen said.

His committee this week began debating portions of the 1992 defense budget, including the C-17. Hansen has long been one of the biggest supporters of the C-17. His longtime nemesis, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, has been one of the plane's leading critics.

Owens has complained the C-17 doesn't increase transportation capabilities enough to justify its high development cost. He has also said the only reason the C-17 has survived is that the military has selected subcontractors for the airplane in virtually every congressional district in the country.