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C-17 Globemaster III


C-17 Globemaster III

For other aircraft with this designation, see C-17 (disambiguation).
C-17 Globemaster III
The prototype C-17, known as T-1, flying a test sortie in 2007.
Role Strategic/tactical airlifter
National origin United States
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
First flight 15 September 1991
Introduction 17 January 1995
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force
Royal Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Produced 1991–present
Number built 250 as of December 2012[1]
Unit cost
US$218 million (flyaway cost for FY2007)[2]
Developed from McDonnell Douglas YC-15

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. It was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 carries the name of two previous piston-engined military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II. The C-17 commonly performs strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop duties.

Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s, continues to manufacture C-17s for export customers following the end of deliveries to the U.S. Air Force. The C-17 is operated by the U.S. Air Force, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, NATO Heavy Airlift Wing, and India.


Background and design phase

In the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began looking for a replacement for its Lockheed C-130 Hercules tactical cargo aircraft.[3] The Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) competition was held, with Boeing proposing the YC-14, and McDonnell Douglas proposing the YC-15.[4] Though both entrants exceeded specified requirements, the AMST competition was canceled before a winner was selected. The Air Force started the C-X program in November 1979 to develop a larger AMST with longer range to augment its strategic airlift.[5]

By 1980, the USAF found itself with a large fleet of aging C-141 Starlifter cargo aircraft. Compounding matters, USAF needed increased strategic airlift capabilities to fulfill its rapid-deployment airlift requirements. The USAF set mission requirements and released a request for proposals (RFP) for C-X in October 1980. McDonnell Douglas elected to develop a new aircraft based on the YC-15; Boeing bid an enlarged three-engine version of its AMST YC-14. Lockheed submitted two designs, a C-5-based design and an enlarged C-141 design. On 28 August 1981, McDonnell Douglas was chosen to build its proposed aircraft, then designated C-17. Compared to the YC-15, the new aircraft differed in having swept wings, increased size, and more powerful engines.[6] This would allow it to perform the work done by the C-141, and also fulfill some of the duties of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, freeing the C-5 fleet for outsize cargo.[6]

Alternate proposals were pursued to fill airlift needs after the C-X contest. These were lengthening of C-141As into C-141Bs, ordering more C-5s, continued purchases of KC-10s, and expansion of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. Limited budgets reduced program funding, requiring a delay of four years. During this time contracts were awarded for preliminary design work and for the completion of engine certification.[7] In December 1985, a full-scale development contract was awarded.[8] At this time, first flight was planned for 1990.[7] The Air Force had formed a requirement for 210 aircraft.[9]

Development problems and limited funding caused delays in the late 1980s.[10] Criticisms were made of the developing aircraft and questions were raised about more cost-effective alternatives during this time.[11][12] In April 1990, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reduced the order from 210 to 120 aircraft.[13] The maiden flight of the C-17 took place on 15 September 1991 from the McDonnell Douglas's plant in Long Beach, California, about a year behind schedule.[14][15] The first aircraft (T-1) and five more production models (P1-P5) participated in extensive flight testing and evaluation at Edwards Air Force Base.[16] Two complete airframes were built for static and repeated load testing.[15]

Development difficulties

A static test of the C-17 wing in October 1992 resulted in the wing failing at 128% of design limit load, which was below the 150% requirement. Both wings buckled rear to the front and failures occurred in stringers, spars and ribs.[17] Some $100 million was spent to redesign the wing structure; the wing failed at 145% during a second test in September 1993.[18] A careful review of the test data however, showed that the wing was not loaded correctly and did indeed meet the requirement.[19] The C-17 received the "Globemaster III" name in early 1993.[6] In late 1993, the Department of Defense gave the contractor two years to solve production and cost overrun problems or face termination of the contract after the delivery of the 40th aircraft.[20] By accepting the 1993 terms, McDonnell Douglas incurred a loss of nearly US$1.5 billion on the development phase of the program.[16]

In April 1994, the C-17 program remained over budget, and did not meet weight, fuel burn, payload and range specifications. It also failed several key criteria during tests to evaluate its airworthiness.[21][22][23] There were technical problems with mission software, landing gear, and so on.[24] In May 1994, a proposal to cut the aircraft's production to as few as 32 aircraft emerged, but was rescinded.[25] A July 1994 GAO document revealed that Air Force and DoD studies from 1986 and 1991 stated the C-17 could use 6,400 more runways outside the U.S. than the C-5; it was later discovered that this study had only considered the runway dimensions, but not their strength or Load Classification Numbers (LCN). The C-5 has a lower LCN, but the USAF classify both in the same broad Load Classification Group (LCG). When considering runway dimensions and their load ratings, the C-17's worldwide runway advantage over the C-5 shrank from 6,400 to 911 airfields.[26] However, the C-17's ability to use lower quality, austere airfields was not considered.[26]

A January 1995 GAO report revealed that while the original C-17 budget was $41.8 billion for 210 aircraft, the 120 aircraft already ordered at that point had already cost $39.5 billion.[27] In March 1994, the U.S. Army had decided it no longer needed the 60,000 lb (27,000 kg) Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) delivery with the C-17, feeling that the 42,000 lb (19,000 kg) capability of the C-130 was sufficient; C-17 testing was limited to this lower weight. Issues with airflow prevented the C-17 from meeting its airdrop requirements. A February 1997 GAO report revealed that a C-17 with a full payload could not land on 3,000 ft (910 m) wet runways; simulations suggested 5,000 ft (1,500 m) was required.[28]

The YC-15 was transferred to AMARC to be made flightworthy again for further flight tests for the C-17 program in March 1997.[29] By the mid-1990s, most of the problems had been resolved.[30][31] The first C-17 squadron was declared operational by the U.S. Air Force in January 1995.[32] In 1996, DoD ordered another 80 aircraft for a total of 120.[33] In 1997 McDonnell Douglas merged with its former competitor, Boeing. In April 1999, Boeing proposed to cut the price of the C-17 if the Air Force bought 60 more,[34] and in August 2002, the order was increased to 180 aircraft.[35]

Continued production

Because of a dwindling order backlog, Boeing was to deliver 13 C-17s in 2011. The company is transitioning to a lower production rate of 10 C-17s per year, from a high of 16 per year, to extend the production line through 2012 as it works to sign additional international orders. The C-17 production line was previously slated to be closed several times, but was extended because of new orders being received. The C-17 workforce will be reduced by approximately 1,100 through the end of 2012, mostly through the elimination of a second shift at the C-17 final assembly plant in Long Beach.[36][37]

There had been 230 production C-17s delivered, including 210 to the U.S. Air Force, by April 2011.[38] The C-17 prototype "T-1" was retired in 2012 after being used by the USAF for testing and development.[39] In January 2010, the service announced that it would end Boeing's performance-based logistics contracts to maintain the aircraft, which was a key source for projected profit growth for the company.[40]

The U.S. Air Force has tested vortex surfing with C-17s using auto pilot, and results indicate a 10% fuel saving.[41]

On 18 September 2013, Boeing announced that it is beginning to close down production of the C-17. The last aircraft is to be assembled in 2015. The announcement came a week after the final of 223 aircraft were delivered to the USAF. 22 C-17s are still being built: 7 for India, 2 for an undisclosed international customer, and 13 available for sale. Despite strong international interest, there were not enough orders. Repairs and spare parts for the planes will continue to be made at least through 2017. The C-17 itself will remain in service for several decades.[42][43][44]


The C-17 is 174 feet (53 m) long and has a wingspan of about 170 feet (52 m). It can airlift cargo fairly close to a battle area. The size and weight of U.S. mechanized firepower and equipment have grown in recent decades from increased air mobility requirements, particularly for large or heavy non-palletized outsize cargo.

The C-17 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, which are based on the commercial Pratt and Whitney PW2040 used on the Boeing 757. Each engine is rated at 40,400 lbf (180 kN) of thrust. The engine's thrust reversers direct engine exhaust air upwards and forward, reducing the chances of foreign object damage by ingestion of runway debris, and providing enough reverse thrust to back the aircraft up on the ground while taxiing. The thrust reversers can also be used in flight at idle-reverse for added drag in maximum-rate descents.

The aircraft requires a crew of three (pilot, copilot, and loadmaster) for cargo operations. Cargo is loaded through a large aft ramp that accommodates rolling stock, such as a 69-ton (63-metric ton) M1 Abrams main battle tank, other armored vehicles, trucks, and trailers, along with palletized cargo. The cargo compartment is 88 feet (26.82 m) long by 18 feet (5.49 m) wide by 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 m) high. The cargo floor has rollers for palletized cargo that can be flipped to provide a flat floor suitable for vehicles and other rolling stock.

Maximum payload of the C-17 is 170,900 lb (77,500 kg), and its Maximum Takeoff Weight is 585,000 lb (265,350 kg). With a payload of 160,000 lb (72,600 kg) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 ft (8,500 m), the C-17 has an unrefueled range of about 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km) on the first 71 aircraft, and 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km) on all subsequent extended-range models that include sealed center wing bay as a fuel tank. Boeing informally calls these aircraft the C-17 ER.[45] The C-17's cruise speed is about 450 knots (833 km/h) (Mach 0.74). It is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers and their equipment.[46] The U.S. Army's Ground Combat Vehicle is to be transported by the C-17.

The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3,500 ft (1,064 m) and as narrow as 90 ft (27 m). In addition, the C-17 can operate from unpaved, unimproved runways (although with greater chance of damage to the aircraft).[46] The thrust reversers can be used to back the aircraft and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three- (or more) point turn.[46]

Operational history

United States Air Force

The first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina on 14 July 1993. The first squadron of C-17s, the 17th Airlift Squadron, was declared operationally ready on 17 January 1995.[47] The C-17 has broken 22 records for oversized payloads.[48] The C-17 was awarded U.S. aviation's most prestigious award, the Collier Trophy in 1994.[49] A report to Congress detailing operations in Kosovo and Operation Allied Force noted that "One of the great success stories...was the performance of the Air Force's C-17A"[50] The C-17 flew half of the strategic airlift missions required in the operation. The aircraft allowed for deliveries via small airfields, greatly assisting the deployment; and rapid turnaround times allowed for efficient utilization.[51]

The U.S. Air Force originally planned to buy a total of 120 C-17s, with the last one being scheduled for delivery in November 2004. The fiscal 2000 budget funded another 14 aircraft, primarily for Air Mobility Command (AMC) support of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Basing of the original 120 C-17s was with the 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, the 62nd Airlift Wing and 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Washington (first aircraft arrived in July 1999), the Air Education and Training Command's (AETC) 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, and the Air Mobility Command-gained 172nd Airlift Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard at Jackson-Evers International Airport/ANGB, Mississippi.

Basing of the additional 13 aircraft went to AMC's 305th Air Mobility Wing and its Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) "associate" unit, the 514th Air Mobility Wing, at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) 3rd Wing and the collocated Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska in a shared associate arrangement; PACAF's 15th Airlift Wing and the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, also in a shared associate arrangement; and AMC's 60th Air Mobility Wing and its AFRC "associate" unit, the 349th Air Mobility Wing, at Travis Air Force Base, California. An additional 60 units were ordered in May 2002. In FY 2006, eight C-17s were delivered to March Joint Air Reserve Base, California; to be controlled by the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), assigned to the 452d Air Mobility Wing. In 2007, Congress appropriated funds for 10 additional USAF C-17s, bringing the total planned fleet size to 190. Additional aircraft were subsequently assigned to AMC's 436th Airlift Wing and its AFRC "associate" unit, the 512th Airlift Wing, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, supplementing the wing's Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft.[52] In 2011, the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, also began transitioning from the C-5 to the C-17, completing its transition in 2012.

The C-17 have been, and continue to be, used to deliver military goods and humanitarian aid during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. On 26 March 2003, 15 USAF C-17s participated in the biggest combat airdrop since the United States invasion of Panama in December 1989: the night-time airdrop of 1,000 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade occurred over Bashur, Iraq. The airdrop of paratroopers were followed by C-17s ferrying M1 Abrams, M2 Bradleys, M113s and artillery.[53] USAF C-17s have also been used to assist allies in their airlift requirements, including Canadian vehicles to Afghanistan in 2003 and the deployment of Australian forces during the Australian-led military deployment to East Timor in 2006. In late 2006, USAF C-17s flew 15 Canadian Leopard C2 tanks from Kyrgyzstan into Kandahar in support of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. In 2013 five USAF C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes supported French operations in Mali, operating with other C-17s (RAF, NATO and RCAF deployed a single C-17 each).

A C-17 accompanies the President of the United States on his visits to both domestic and foreign arrangements, consultations, and meetings. The C-17 is used to transport the Presidential Limousine and security detachments.[54] There have been several occasions where a C-17 has been used to transport the President himself, temporarily gaining the Air Force One call sign while doing so.[55] The C-17 and its crews support Special Operations use, including low-level operations, insertion and extraction or resupply support to Special Operations Forces, air drop of supplies, and insertion of paratroops.

There has been debate about follow-on orders for the C-17, with the Air Force requesting line shutdown, and members of Congress attempting to reinstate production. Furthermore, in FY2007, the Air Force requested $1.6 billion to deal with what it termed "excessive combat use" on operational airframes.[56] However, in testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee on air and land forces, General Arthur Lichte, USAF, the Commander of Air Mobility Command indicated the need to extend production to another 15 aircraft to increase the total to 205. Pending the delivery of the results of two studies in 2009, Lichte considered that the Air Force may have to keep the production line open for purchase of even more C-17s to satisfy airlift requirements.[57]

After several years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force decided to cap its C-17 fleet at 223 aircraft. The service accepted its final C-17 delivery on 12 September 2013.[58]

Royal Air Force

Boeing has marketed the C-17 to many European nations including Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The Royal Air Force (RAF) has established an aim of having interoperability and some weapons and capabilities commonality with the USAF. The UK's 1998 Strategic Defence Review identified a requirement for a strategic airlifter. The Short-Term Strategic Airlift (STSA) competition commenced in September of that year, however tendering was canceled in August 1999 with some bids identified by ministers as too expensive, including the Boeing/BAe C-17 bid, and others unsuitable.[59] The project continued, with the C-17 seen as the favorite.[59] In the light of continuing delays to the Airbus A400M program, the UK Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, announced in May 2000 that the RAF would lease four C-17s at an annual cost of £100 million[56] from Boeing for an initial seven years with an optional two-year extension. The RAF had the option to buy the aircraft or return them to Boeing. The UK committed to upgrading its C-17s in line with the USAF so that if they were to be returned to Boeing, the USAF could adopt them.

The first C-17 was delivered to the RAF at Boeing's Long Beach facility on 17 May 2001 and flown to RAF Brize Norton by a crew from No. 99 Squadron which had previously trained with USAF crews to gain competence on the type. The RAF's fourth C-17 was delivered on 24 August 2001. The RAF aircraft were some of the first to take advantage of the new center wing fuel tank found in Block 13 aircraft. In RAF service, the C-17 has not been given an official designation (for example, C-130J referred to as Hercules C4 or C5), but is referred to simply as the C-17 or "C-17A Globemaster".

The RAF declared itself delighted with the C-17. Although the Globemaster fleet was to be a fallback for the A400M, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 21 July 2004 that they had elected to buy their four C-17s at the end of the lease,[60] even though the A400M appeared to be moving closer to production. While the A400M is described as a "strategic" airlifter, the C-17 gives the RAF strategic capabilities that it would not wish to lose, for example a maximum payload of 169,500 lb (77,000 kg) compared to the A400M's 82,000 lb (37,000 kg).[56]

Another C-17 was ordered in August 2006, and delivered on 22 February 2008. The four leased C-17s were to be purchased later in 2008.[61] Because of fears that the A400M may suffer further delays, the MoD announced in 2006 that it planned to acquire three more C-17s, for a total of eight, with delivery in 2009–2010. On 26 July 2007, Defence Secretary Des Browne announced that the MoD intended to order a sixth C-17 to boost operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.[62] On 3 December 2007, the MoD announced a contract for a sixth C-17,[63] which was received on 11 June 2008.[64]

On 18 December 2009, Boeing confirmed that the RAF had ordered a seventh C-17,[65][66] which was delivered on 16 November 2010.[67] The UK announced the purchase of its 8th C-17 in February 2012.[68] The capabilities of the C-17 allow the RAF to use it for medical evacuation.[69]

On 13 January 2013, the RAF deployed two C-17s of No. 99 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton to the French Évreux Air Base. The aircraft are to transport French armored vehicles to the Malian capital of Bamako.[70]

Royal Australian Air Force

Main article: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III in Australian service

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began investigating options to acquire heavy lift transport aircraft for strategic transport in 2005.[71] In late 2005 the then Minister for Defence Robert Hill stated that the Australian Defence Force was considering such aircraft due to the limited availability of strategic airlift aircraft from partner nations and air freight companies. The C-17 was considered to be favored over the A400M as it was a "proven aircraft" and was already in production. One major requirement from the RAAF was the ability to airlift the Army's new M1 Abrams tanks; another requirement was immediate delivery. Though unstated, commonality with the USAF and the United Kingdom's RAF was also considered advantageous. The aircraft for the RAAF were ordered directly from the USAF production run, and are identical to American C-17 even in paint scheme, the only difference being the national markings. This allowed delivery to commence within nine months of commitment to the program.[72]

On 2 March 2006, the Australian government announced the purchase of three aircraft and one option with an entry into service date of 2006.[56] In July 2006 a fixed price contract was awarded to Boeing to deliver four C-17s for US$780M (A$1bn).[73] Australia also signed a US$80.7M contract to join the global 'virtual fleet' C-17 sustainment program[74] and the RAAF's C-17s will receive the same upgrades as the USAF's fleet.[75]

The Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of its first C-17 in a ceremony at Boeing's plant at Long Beach, California on 28 November 2006.[76] Several days later the aircraft flew from Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii to Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, arriving on 4 December 2006. The aircraft was formally accepted in a ceremony at Fairbairn shortly after arrival.[77] The second aircraft was delivered to the RAAF on 11 May 2007 and the third was delivered on 18 December 2007. The fourth Australian C-17 was delivered on 19 January 2008.[78] All the Australian C-17s are operated by No. 36 Squadron and are based at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.[79]

On 18 April 2011, Boeing announced that the Commonwealth of Australia had signed an agreement with the U.S. government to acquire a fifth C-17 due to an increased demand for humanitarian and disaster relief missions.[80] The aircraft was delivered to the RAAF on 14 September 2011.[81][82] On 23 September 2011, Australian Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announced that the government was seeking information from the United States about the price and delivery schedule for a sixth Globemaster.[83] In November 2011, Australia requested a 6th C-17 through the U.S. FMS program. This aircraft was ordered in June 2012, and was delivered on 1 November 2012.[84][85]

Australia's C-17s have supported ADF operations around the world. Tasks have included supporting Air Combat Group training deployments to the United States, transporting Royal Australian Navy Sea Hawk helicopters and making fortnightly missions to the Middle East to supply Australian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The C-17s have also carried humanitarian supplies to Papua New Guinea during Operation Papua New Guinea Assist in 2007, supplies and South African Puma helicopters to Burma in 2008 following Cyclone Nargis,[86] relief supplies to Samoa following the 2009 earthquake, relief supplies around Queensland following the 2010–2011 floods and Cyclone Yasi, and rescue teams and equipment to New Zealand following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and delivery of equipment for mitigation of the effects caused by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami from Western Australia to Japan.

Royal Canadian Air Force

Canada's air arm has had a long-standing need for strategic airlift for humanitarian and military operations around the world. It had followed a pattern similar to the German Air Force in leasing Antonovs and Ilyushins for many of its needs, including deploying the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka in 2005. The air service was forced to rely entirely on leased An-124 Ruslan for a Canadian Army deployment to Haiti in 2003. The service has also used a combination of leased Ruslans, Ilyushins and USAF C-17s for moving heavy equipment into Afghanistan. In 2002, the Canadian Forces Future Strategic Airlifter Project began to study alternatives, including long-term leasing arrangements.[87]

On 5 July 2006, the Canadian government issued a notice that it intended to negotiate directly with Boeing to procure four airlifters for the Canadian Forces Air Command (renamed Royal Canadian Air Force in August 2011).[88] On 1 February 2007, Canada awarded a contract for four C-17s with delivery beginning in August 2007.[89] Like Australia, Canada was granted airframes originally slated for the U.S. Air Force, to accelerate delivery.[90]

On 16 June 2007, the first Canadian C-17 rolled off the assembly line at Long Beach, California and into the paint hangar for painting and addition of Canadian markings including the national logo and air force roundel. The first Canadian C-17 made its initial flight on 23 July.[91] It was turned over to Canada on 8 August,[92] and participated at the Abbotsford International Airshow on 11 August prior to arriving at its new home base at 8 Wing, CFB Trenton, Ontario on 12 August.[93] Its first operational mission was delivery of disaster relief to Jamaica in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean.[94] The second C-17 arrived at 8 Wing, CFB Trenton on 18 October 2007. The last of four aircraft was delivered in April 2008.[95] The C-17 is officially designated CC-177 Globemaster III by Canada.[96] The aircraft are assigned to RCAF's 429 Squadron based at CFB Trenton.

On 14 April 2010, a Canadian C-17 landed at Alert Airport, which serves CFS Alert, the world's most northerly airport. It was Canada's first operational unpaved runway with a C-17.[97] Canadian Globemasters have been deployed in support of numerous humanitarian and military missions worldwide, including Operation Hestia after the earthquake in Haiti, evacuations of foreign citizens from Libya, providing airlift as part of Operation Mobile as well as ongoing support to the Canadian Army in Afghanistan.

NATO (Strategic Airlift Capability Program)

A number of NATO countries signed a letter of intent to purchase C-17s on 19 July 2006 at the 2006 Farnborough Airshow to participate in the joint purchase and operation of C-17s within NATO, a program called the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability.[98] A further letter of intent was announced on 12 September 2006 that included a few other countries, some of which have since withdrawn. The present members are Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, the United States, as well as two Partnership for Peace countries Finland and Sweden.[98]

The purchase is for two C-17s, and a third which is the U.S. contribution to the pool, which is manned in the same fashion as the NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft,[99] where the AWACS aircraft are jointly manned by crew from NATO countries. On 14 July 2009, Boeing delivered the first C-17 under NATO's Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) program. The second and third C-17s were delivered in September and October 2009.[100][101] The aircraft are based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. The Heavy Airlift Wing is hosted by Hungary, which acts as the flag nation.[102]

Qatar Emiri Air Force

The Qatar Emiri Air Force operates four C-17s. Boeing delivered Qatar's first C-17 on 11 August 2009 and the second on 10 September 2009.[103] Qatar received its third C-17 in 2012, and fourth C-17 was received on 10 December 2012. The December delivery was the 249th C-17 delivered.[104]

A June 2013 article by the New York Times states that Qatar is using its C-17s to ship weapons from Libya to the Syrian opposition via Turkey, feeding the Syrian civil war.[105]

United Arab Emirates Air Force

In February 2009, the United Arab Emirates Air Force signed an agreement to purchase four C-17 airlifters.[106] In January 2010, UAE signed a contract with Boeing for six C-17s (four C-17s in 2011, and two in 2012).[107][108] The fifth C-17 was handed over in May 2012.[109][110] All six were received by late June 2012.[111]

Indian Air Force

In June 2009, the Indian Air Force (IAF) selected the C-17 to fulfill its Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft requirement,[112][113][114] and to replace its fleet of aging transport planes.[115][116] In January 2010, the U.S. Government received a request from India for 10 C-17s through the U.S.'s Foreign Military Sales program,[117] which was approved by the U.S. Congress in June 2010.[118] On 23 June 2010, the Indian Air Force successfully test-landed a USAF C-17 at the Gaggal Airport, India to complete the IAF's C-17 trials.[119] In February 2011, the IAF and Boeing agreed to terms for the order of 10 C-17s[120] with an option for six more; the order was approved by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security on 6 June 2011.[121][122][123] Deliveries began in June 2013 and are to continue until 2014.[124][125] The total cost of the ten-plane order is US$4.1 billion, and it will make IAF the second-largest C-17 operator.[115] It was reported that the Indian Air Force has finalized plans to buy six more C-17s in the 13th five-year plan (2017-2022).[126][127][128]

The aircraft provides strategic airlift and the ability to deploy special forces in the event of national emergencies or terrorism.[129] They are operated by the air force in diverse terrain - from Himalayan air bases in North India at 13,000 ft to Indian Ocean bases in South India.[130] The Indian Air Force's C-17s are based at Hindon Air Force Station,[131][132] and are operated by the No. 81 Squadron Skylords.[133][134][135] The first C-17 was delivered in January 2013 for testing and training;[136] it was officially accepted on 11 June 2013.[137] The second C-17 was delivered on 23 July 2013 and put into service immediately. IAF Chief of Air Staff Norman AK Browne called the Globemaster III "a major component in the IAF's modernization drive" while taking delivery of the aircraft at Boeing's Long Beach factory.[138] On 2 September 2013, the Skylords squadron with three C-17s officially entered service with the Indian Air Force.[139]

The Skylords regularly fly mission within India, to places like Port Blair, Leh and Thoise. The IAF first used the C-17 to transport equipment of an army infantry battalion to Port Blair on 1 July 2013.[140] They have also been sent on foreign deployments. These include a flight to Tajikistan in August which carried special equipment and instrument landing aids, and another flight is planned in September for Rwanda to deliver heavy equipment to support the 4,000 Indian troops deployed in Congo as part of Indian Army United Nations peacekeeping missions.[128] One C-17 was used for transporting relief materials during Cyclone Phailin.[141][142]

Orders and deliveries


In 2007, 190 C-17s were on order to the USAF.[143] Congress provided funding for 15 C-17s in a FY2008 War Supplemental in June 2008.[144][145] These funds extended production from August 2009 to August 2010. On 6 February 2009, Boeing was awarded a contract for 15 additional aircraft for $2.95 billion, thus increasing C-17s on contract to the USAF to 205.[146] On 6 April 2009, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that there would be no more C-17s ordered beyond the 205 planned.[147] But in May, a war funding bill was put forward with up to eight more aircraft.[148] On 12 June 2009, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee added 17 C-17s to the total planned level.[149]

File:C-17 Airdrop 4 Humvees + 50 Paratroopers.ogv

In November 2009, 205 C-17s were on contract with the USAF. A contract for eight C-17s from the supplemental war funding bill has not yet been awarded. On 18 December 2009, the U.S. Senate passed the FY 2010 DOD budget with funding for 10 C-17s and was signed into law by the President the following day. Total USAF C-17s contracted will be 223 once contracts are awarded, extending production until 2013.

On 19 June 2012, the Air Force ordered its 224th, and likely its final, C-17 transport from Boeing. This is a replacement aircraft for one that crashed in Alaska in July 2010. Work on this airframe is expected to be completed in May 2013, according to the Defense Department.[150]


During the summer 2008 it was reported that South Korea had allocated funds for the purchase of three or four C-17-class for use in supporting expeditionary deployments.[151] Kuwait requested the purchase of one C-17 in September 2010 and another C-17 in April 2013, along with spare parts, and support through the U.S.'s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.[152][153]

In January 2010, India requested 10 C-17s through the U.S. Government's Foreign Military Sales program,[117] and was approved by U.S. Congress in June 2010.[154] In February 2011, the IAF and Boeing agreed to terms for the order of 10 C-17s[120] Deliveries of the 10 aircraft are to begin in 2013.[122][124]

Commercial interest

In the mid-1990s, McDonnell Douglas began to market the C-17 to commercial civilian operators, under the name MD-17.[155] Because of its high projected fuel, maintenance and depreciation cost for a low-cycle military design in commercial service, as well as a limited market dominated by the An-124, very little interest was expressed. After McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, the commercial version was renamed BC-17.[156] However, the aircraft received no orders and Boeing stopped offering the BC-17 for sale.


1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
1 4 5 8 6 6 7 10 11 13 14 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 14 12 10 4

Sources: C-17 Globemaster III Pocket Guide.[157] Boeing IDS Major Deliveries[158]


  • C-17A: Initial military airlifter version.
  • C-17A "ER": Unofficial name for C-17As with extended range due to the addition of the center wing tank.[45][159] This upgrade was incorporated in production beginning in 2001 with Block 13 aircraft.[159]
  • C-17B: Proposed tactical airlifter version. The design includes double-slotted flaps, an additional main landing gear on center fuselage, more powerful engines and other systems for shorter landing and take-off distances.[160] Boeing offered the C-17B to the U.S. military in 2007 for carrying the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) vehicles and other equipment.[161]


RAF, RAAF and USAF C-17s and flight crews at RAF Brize Norton in June 2007
A training mission in Jan. 2007 over the Hawaiian Islands
USAF C-17 transporting a Dutch PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer to Afghanistan, September 2006
 United Arab Emirates
 United Kingdom

 United States

Accidents and incidents

  • On 10 September 1998, a U.S. Air Force C-17 (AF Serial No.96-0006) suffered a landing gear failure as it landed in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, a 3,800-foot (1,200 m) runway, to deliver Keiko the whale. After receiving temporary repairs, it was flown to another city in Iceland for further repairs.[176][177] The total repair bill topped $1 million.
  • On 10 December 2003, a U.S. Air Force C-17 (AF Serial No. 98-0057) was hit by a surface-to-air missile after take-off from Baghdad, Iraq. One engine was disabled and the aircraft returned for a safe landing.[178] The aircraft was repaired and returned to service.[179]
  • On 6 August 2005, a U.S. Air Force C-17 (AF Serial No. 01-0196) ran off the runway at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan while attempting to land, destroying the aircraft's nose and main landing gear. It was the most extensively damaged C-17 at that time.[180] A Boeing recovery team spent two months getting the aircraft ready to fly back to Boeing's Long Beach production facility.[181] The five-day flight back to the United States had to be performed by a test pilot because the temporary repairs caused numerous performance limitations.[182] The repair was completed at Long Beach in October 2006 and the aircraft returned to service.
  • On 30 January 2009, a U.S. Air Force C-17 (AF Serial No. 96-0002 – "Spirit of the Air Force") made a gear-up landing at Bagram Air Base.[183][184] The C-17 was ferried from Bagram AB, making several stops along the way, to Boeing's plant in Long Beach, California, for extensive repairs to return it to service. The USAF Aircraft Accident Investigation Board concluded the incident was caused by the crew's failure to lower the landing gear and having not followed the pre-landing checklist.[185]
  • On 28 July 2010, a U.S. Air Force C-17 (AF Serial No. 00-0173 – "Spirit of the Aleutians") crashed on Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska during a training flight, killing all four aboard.[186] It was practicing for the 2010 Arctic Thunder Air Show.[187][188] The C-17 crashed near a railroad, damaged tracks and disrupted rail operations.[189] A military investigative report determined that a stall caused by pilot error led to the crash.[190] This is the only fatal C-17 crash and its only hull-loss incident.[189]

Specifications (C-17)

C-17 in an Aeromedical Evacuation configuration
Three C-17s unload supplies to help victims of Hurricane Katrina at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, in August 2005.
A C-17 combat off-load of pallets in Afghanistan, June 2009

Data from U.S. Air Force fact sheet,[46] Boeing,[191][192] and AerospaceWeb[193]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 3: 2 pilots, 1 loadmaster
  • Capacity:
    • 102 paratroopers or
    • 134 troops with palletized and sidewall seats or
    • 54 troops with sidewall seats (allows 13 cargo pallets) only or
    • 36 litter and 54 ambulatory patients and medical attendants or
    • Cargo, such as an M1 Abrams tank,[194] three Strykers, or six M1117 Armored Security Vehicles
  • Payload: 170,900 lb (77,519 kg) of cargo distributed at max over 18 463L master pallets or a mix of palletized cargo and vehicles
  • Length: 174 ft (53 m)
  • Wingspan: 169.8 ft (51.75 m)
  • Height: 55.1 ft (16.8 m)
  • Wing area: 3,800 ft² (353 m²)
  • Empty weight: 282,500 lb (128,100 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 585,000 lb (265,350 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofans, 40,440 lbf (180 kN) each
  • Fuel capacity: 35,546 U.S. gal (134,556 L)


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists





  • Bonny, Danny, Barry Fryer and Martyn Swann. AMARC MASDC III, The Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, 1997–2005. Surrey, UK: British Aviation Research Group, 2006. ISBN 978-0-906339-07-7.
  • Department of Defense. , 31 January 2000.
  • Gertler, Jeremiah. "Air Force C-17 Aircraft Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress." Congressional Research Service, 22 December 2009.
  • Kennedy, Betty R. Globemaster III: Acquiring the C-17. McConnell AFB, Kansas: Air Mobility Command Office of History, 2004.
  • McLaughlin, Andrew. "Big Mover." Canberra: Australian Aviation (Phantom Media), September 2008.
  • Norton, Bill. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (Warbird Tech, Vol. 30). North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58007-040-X.

External links

External images
C-17 Globemaster III images
Boeing C-17 Globemaster II Cutaway from
Letter by J. David Patterson, Senior Manager, Market Research and Analysis, McDonnell Douglas
  • C-17 History page on
  • C-17 USAF fact sheet
  • C-17 page on
  • C-17 interior used for passenger transport
  • C-17 walkaround photographs on
  • C-17 Globemaster III photos on
  • C-17 Globemaster III photos on

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