The worldwide fleet of Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic military transport aircraft surpassed the 4 million flight hours milestone.
C-17 is a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed aircraft with a rear loading ramp that can carry large combat equipment and troops or humanitarian aid across international distances directly to small austere airfields anywhere in the world.
With a payload of 164,900 pounds, the C-17 can take off from a 7,000-foot airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles, and land on a small, austere airfield of 3,000 feet or less. The C-17 is equipped with an externally blown flap system that allows a steep, low-speed final approach and low-landing speeds for routine short-field landings. In the cargo compartment, the C-17 can carry wheeled vehicles in two side-by-side rows. Three combat-ready Stryker infantry-fighting vehicles comprise one deployment load. Similarly, the U.S. Army’s main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, can be carried.
The aircraft is powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW2040 series turbofan engines, designated as F117-PW-100 by the U.S. Air Force, each producing 40,440 pounds of thrust. The engines are equipped with directed-flow thrust reversers capable of deployment in flight. On the ground, a fully loaded aircraft using thrust reversers can back up a 2 percent slope.
During flight-testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., C-17s set 33 world records – more than any other airlifter in history – including payload to altitude, time-to-climb and short-takeoff-and-landing marks in which the C-17 took off in less than 1,400 feet, carried a payload of 44,000 pounds to altitude and landed in less than 1,400 feet.
Boeing completed production of the final C-17 Globemaster III, plane number 279, in November, 2015 and, currently, there are 275 C-17s flying throughout the world. The worldwide C-17 fleet surpassed the 2 million flight-hours milestone on Dec. 10, 2010 and the fleet surpassed three million flight hours in 2015.
The largest C-17 customer is the U.S. Air Force with 223 planes. The C-17 made its maiden flight on Sept. 15, 1991, and the first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, now identified as Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on June 14, 1993. The first squadron of C-17s, the 17th Airlift Squadron, was declared operationally ready Jan. 17, 1995. USAF C-17s have been involved in numerous contingency operations, including flying troops and equipment to Operation Joint Endeavor to support peacekeeping in Bosnia, Allied Force Operation in Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India and NATO’s 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative all operate the C-17 Globemaster III. The Indian Air Force operates the largest fleet of C-17s outside the US.
Global C-17 fleet:
• U.S. Air Force (USAF) – 222
• Indian Air Force (IAF) – 11
• UK Royal Air Force (RAF) – 8
• Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) – 8
• Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) – 8
• UAE Air Force (UAEAF) – 8
• Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – 5
• Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) – 3
• Kuwait Air Force – 2
U.S. Air Force C-17s are based at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; the Air National Guard Base at Jackson, Miss.; McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Dover Air Force Base, Del.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y. The Indian Air Force C-17 is based at Hindon Air Force Station. The RAF C-17s are based at RAF Brize Norton. The Royal Australian Air Force C-17 unit is based at RAAF Base Amberley, in Queensland, Australia. Canadian C-17s are based at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario. The 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability C-17 fleet is based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Qatar’s C-17s are assigned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The United Arab Emirates’ C-17s are stationed at Abu Dhabi.