Globemaster III is the newest, most
flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. The C-17 is capable
of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main
operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area.
The aircraft can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and can
also transport litters and ambulatory patients during
evacuations when required. The inherent flexibility and performance of
the C-17 force improve the ability of the total airlift system to
fulfill the worldwide air mobility requirements of the United States.
The ultimate measure of airlift effectiveness is the ability to rapidly
project and sustain an effective combat force close to a potential
battle area. Threats to U.S. interests have changed in recent years,
and the size and weight of U.S.-mechanized firepower and equipment have
grown in response to improved capabilities of potential adversaries.
This trend has significantly increased air mobility requirements,
particularly in the area of large or heavy outsize cargo. As a result,
newer and more flexible airlift aircraft are needed to meet potential
armed contingencies, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide.
The C-17 is capable of meeting today's demanding airlift missions.
Reliability and maintainability are two outstanding benefits of the
C-17 system. Current operational requirements impose demanding
reliability and maintainability. These requirements include an aircraft
mission completion success probability rate of 92 percent, only 20
aircraft maintenance man-hours per flying hour, and full and partial
mission availability rates of 74.7 and 82.5 percent, respectively. The
Boeing warranty assures these figures will be met.
The C-17 measures 174 feet long (53 meters) with a wingspan of 169
feet, 10 inches (51.75 meters). The aircraft is powered by four, fully
reversible, Federal Aviation Administration-certified F117-PW-100
engines (the military designation for the commercial Pratt &
Whitney PW2040), currently used on the Boeing 757. Each engine is rated
at 40,440 pounds of thrust. The thrust reversers direct the flow of air
upward and forward to avoid ingestion of dust and debris. Maximum use
has been made of off-the-shelf and commercial equipment, including Air
The aircraft is operated by a crew of three (pilot, copilot and
loadmaster), reducing manpower requirements, risk exposure and
long-term operating costs. Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a
large aft door that accommodates military vehicles and palletized
cargo. The C-17 can carry virtually all of the Army's air-transportable
Maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds (77,519
kilograms), and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds
(265,352 kilograms). With a payload of 169,000 pounds (76,657
kilograms) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534
meters), the C-17 has an unrefueled range of approximately
nautical miles. Its cruise speed is approximately 450 knots (.76 Mach).
The C-17 is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers and equipment.
The design of the aircraft allows it to operate through small, austere
airfields. The C-17 can take off and land on runways as short as 3,500
feet (1,064 meters) and only 90 feet wide (27.4 meters). Even on such
narrow runways, the C-17 can turn around using a three-point star turn
and its backing capability.
The C-17 made its maiden flight on Sept. 15, 1991, and the first
production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., June
14, 1993. The first squadron of C-17s, the 17th Airlift Squadron, was
declared operationally ready Jan. 17, 1995. The Air Force originally
programmed to buy a total of 120 C-17s, with the last one being
delivered in November 2004. Current budget plans involve purchasing 205
The original 120 C-17s were based at Charleston AFB; McChord AFB,
Wash., (first aircraft arrived in July 1999); Altus AFB, Okla.; and at
an Air National Guard unit in Jackson, Miss. In August
2005, March Air
Reserve Base, Calif., began basing the first of eight
February 2006, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, received its first C-17.
The C-17 is operated by the Air Mobility Command at the 60th Airlift
Wing and the 349th Air Mobility Wing (Associate Reserve) at Travis AFB,
Calif.; 62nd Airlift Wing and 446th Airlift Wing (Associate
McChord AFB, Wash.; 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing
(Associate Reserve) at Charleston AFB, S.C.; the 305th Air
Wing, McGuire AFB, N.J.; and the 172nd Airlift Wing,
Additionally, Air Force Materiel Command operates two C-17s at
AFB, Calif., and Pacific Air Forces operates eight aircraft
Elmendorf AFB, Alaska and Hickam AFB, Hawaii (Associate
Guard). The Air
Force Reserve Command operates eight aircraft at March Air Reserve
Base, Calif; and Air Education and Training Command has 12
Altus AFB, Okla.