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Boeing C-17A Globemaster III



A 62d Airlift Wing C-17A from McChord Air Force Base is pictured banking over  Washington State Cascades Mountains.


On July 30, 1999 hundreds of onlookers witnessed the dawn of a new era for airlift in the Pacific Northwest they saw the arrival of two of the most capable airlifters ever made  - the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. McChord received 52 of the very capable planes as a replacement for it's retired workhorse C-141B StarLifter.

The C-17 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 is also capable of performing tactical airlift and airdrop missions 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 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 3,000 feet (914 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.

By the late 70's ,the US Air Force began to have issues with its airlift fleet, C-141 StarLifter's and older model C-5's began to show their age. Compounding matters, USAF historically never possessed sufficient strategic airlift capabilities to fulfill its airlift requirements, the search for a new airlifter began. By October 1980, the USAF set mission requirements and released a request for proposals (RFP) and initiated the Cargo-Experimental (C-X) competition to identify a new jet-powered strategic airlifter.

Two companies, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas used larger versions of aircraft  developed to replace the Lockheed C-130 Hercules developed during the Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) project that was canceled in 1979. Boeing bid an enlarged version of its AMST YC-14. Lockheed submitted a C-5 based design and an enlarged C-141 design. McDonnell Douglas was selected to build its proposed aircraft on 28 August 1981, designated C-17.***Development continued until December 1985 when a full-scale production contract was signed for 210 aircraft. Development problems and limited funding caused delays in the late 1980s. Questions were also raised about more cost-effective alternatives during this time. In April 1990, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney reduced the order from 210 to 120 aircraft.

The first C-17 (S/N 87-0025) made its maiden flight on Sept. 15, 1991,the flight lasted for more than two hours from the Douglas Long Beach Plant to Edwards Air Force Base to begin the developmental flight-test program. After initial testing, C-17's began entering its operational service with the 437th Airlift Wing, at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. on 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. The fiscal 2000 budget funded an additional 14 C-17s to give AMC the ability to configure 14 existing C-17's for special operations duties replacing C-141 Special Operations Low Level (SOLL) II. Delivery of the original 120 C-17s occurred between 1992 and 2004 at Charleston AFB; McChord AFB, Altus AFB,  and 172nd AW, Mississippi ANG. Basing of the additional 13 aircraft was accomplished at McGuire AFB, NJ between 2004 & 2005.

During late 2000, Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters considered dealing the planned 2006 retirement of 63 ANG and AFRES C-141s to 2010. This delay would solve a shortage of "tails" since the C-141's were not being replaced one of one with C-17's. (in other words 134 C-17s can only be in half as many locations as 270 C-141s). In 2002 Air Mobility Command officials released a long-range airlift plan called the Mobility Roadmap, which calls for up to 60 additional C-17's to eliminate shortfalls in airlift capability. Boeing (which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997) responded by proposing a follow-on multiyear procurement under which 60 C-17s would be bought at a rate of 15 per year and $152 million per plane (in FY ‘99 dollars, the current average price is about $198 million in FY ‘99 dollars). The additional aircraft would have extended range fuel tanks and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 615,000 pounds, compared to 585,000 pounds on current aircraft.

In May 2002 The USAF was given the green light purchase an additional 60 aircraft under  contract with Boeing worth as much as $10 billion, with production extending through 2007. This contract would bring total production to 180 aircraft replacing aircraft in use at stateside active squadrons and will also be replacing C-130's in Alaska and Hawaii. In 2005, AMC officials were faced with the potential retirement of a number of older C-5 Galaxy airlifters, because of this  the Department of Defense considered an additional buy 42 aircraft worth about $5 billion. The aircraft could have extend production of the C-17 through 2011, resulting in a total buy of 222 aircraft.

In Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act Signed by President George Bush set aside $4.4 billion for 22 C-17, unfortunately 10 were only funded for construction, which brought the total buy for the USAF to 190 aircraft. Additional C-17's to the USAF contract for FY2008 (15 aircraft) FY2009 (8 aircraft) and FY2010 (10 aircraft) Defense budgets raising the USAF total to 223 aircraft.

The President's Fiscal 2011 Defense Budget request grows a department fighting two wars and attacking an amorphous terror network, In his  February 2, 2010, testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed to the Senators that he will recommend President Barack Obama veto the 2011 budget if it contains continued C-17 Globemaster III production. At the end of 2010, the USAF took delivery of the services 206th C-17.

In Fiscal Year 2011,  10 C-5 Galaxy aircraft will be replaced by 8 C-17s at the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command's 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  The first four C-17s will arrive in fiscal 2011 after five of the C-5s are retired from service. Four more C-17s will be delivered in FY 2012 after the remaining C-5s are retired.

On November 17, 2010, the USAF selected the New York Air National Guard 's 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base as its "preferred base" for eight C-17's. The 12 C-5A Galaxy operated by the 105th AW would be retired and replaced by the C-17s. Air Force officials said the final decision on basing C-17s at Stewart ANG Base will be made when an environmental impact analysis is complete. This is expected to be complete by May of 2011. If selected, C-17's would begin moving to the base in the fall of 2011.


USAF C-17's are based as follows:

Air Mobility Command - 62nd Airlift Wing and 446th Airlift Wing (Associate Reserve) at  McChord AFB; 437th Airlift Wing and  315th Airlift Wing (Associate Reserve), Charleston AFB, SC; the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire AFB, NJ, the 60th Air Mobility Wing and the 349th Air Mobility Wing (Associate Reserve) at Travis AFB, CA and the 436th Airlift Wing and 512th AW (Associate Reserve) at Dover AFB, DE.

Air National Guard  - 172nd AW Mississippi ANG at Allen C. Thompson Field, 105th Airlift Wing Stewart ANGB, NY (2012)

Air Force Reserve Command  - 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base, CA and 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

Pacific Air Forces - 15th Airlift Wing and 154th Wing (Associate Guard) Hickam AFB, Hawaii and  3rd Wing and 176th Wing  (Associate Guard) at  Elmendorf AFB, AK

Air Education & Training Command - 977th Air Mobility Wing, Altus AFB, OK

Air Force Materiel Command - 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, CA.


Boeing has actively marketed the C-17 to many European nations including Belgium, Britain, France and Spain. The UK's 1998 Strategic Defense Review identified a requirement for a strategic airlifter following the protracted procurement of the European airlifter, the Airbus A400M airlifter. The Short-Term Strategic Airlift (STSA) competition began in September of that year. The UK cancelled the competition in August 1999 recognizing that the C-17 met all of its demanding specifications. In May 2000 British Ministry of Defense announced  that the RAF would lease four C-17s from Boeing for an initial seven years with an optional two year extension, with the option to buy the aircraft or return them to Boeing at the end of the lease. 

On May 23, 2001 at a ceremony at Boeings Long Beach factory the RAF's took deliver of its first of four Globemaster (ZZ171, the 77th C-17) with the last of the 4 leased aircraft being delivered in August of that year. All RAF C-17's are based at RAF Brize Norton with the 99th Squadron.

Instead of extending the lease, In 2006 the RAF agreed to buy all 4 aircraft at the end of the lease, with the outright purchase of one aircraft. RAF concerns about late A400M delivery, and front-line operational needs, have led the addition of a 3 additional aircraft, the 5th and 6th aircraft entered service in 2008 the 7th in 2010.


On April 3, 2006, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of Foreign Military Sale to Australia of up to four C-17's aircraft, 18 Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines, parts and associated equipment and services. The 4 C-17 Globemaster IIIs to the Royal Australian Air Force ($195 million per plane) would be taken out of C-17 construction positions from the Air Force Multi-Year Procurement II (MYPII) C-17 production. Negotiations were between Boeing the Australian and US Governments, completed in July 2006, with the 1st delivery in November 2006; 2nd, May 2007; 3rd, January 2008 and 4th, February 2008. RAAF C-17s fly with the 36th Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.


On Feb. 02, 2007, Boeing and the Canadian government signed an agreement for the purchase of four C-17 Globemaster IIIs for Canada's Department of National Defense to provide new strategic airlift mobility capabilities not currently available to the Canadian Air Force. Boeing delivered the CAFs first CC-177 (C-17s Canadian designation) on August 8, 2007 arriving at the 3rd Wing Bagotville, Quebec (for operational testing) on Aug 21, 2007. Days later, the Canadian C-17 performed its first operational mission delivering more than 35 tons of aid to Kingston, Jamaica in the wake of Hurricane Dean. Normally a mission of this type would have required 2-4 CC-130 (C-130) Hercules. The forth CC-177 was delivered on April 1, 2008.  Canadian C-17 are flown by the 429 Transport Squadron (“Bisons”) based at 8 Wing / CFB Trenton.


To address the lack of heavy airlift capabilities in Europe, the NATO Airlift Management Agency (NAMA) general manager, on behalf of the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) nations, signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance with the U.S. government for the acquisition of 2 C-17 Globemaster III. The On November 24, 2008 agreement follows NATO's Oct. 1 announcement that the 12 SAC nations had formally agreed to move forward with the acquisition of C-17s, which will address national requirements for strategic airlift.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense and NAMA, 2 C-17s would be purchased from Boeing, while a third would be provided by the USAF. The aircraft would be assigned to SAC's Heavy Airlift Wing and jointly operated by the nations from Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Each participating nation would pay for a portion of a C-17, giving each country a  share in a pooled fleet. The 12 nations participating in the SAC Program are Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the United States


The government of Qatar signed an agreement with Boeing on July 21, 2008 for the purchase of 2 C-17s to provide new strategic-airlift mobility capabilities for the Qatar Armed Forces (QAF). Boeing delivered Qatar's first C-17 on August 11, 2009 and the second on September 10, 2009.  

"The QAF is very pleased to be acquiring C-17s," said H.E. Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah, chief of staff, Qatar Armed Forces. "The C-17 Globemaster III is a world-class strategic and tactical airlifter that has proven itself repeatedly around the world. This agreement marks a new era in Qatar's ability to provide strategic airlift in support of our military and humanitarian operations."

"The QAF closely evaluated the available options for airborne strategic lift and determined the C-17 best fit the requirements for the State of Qatar," said Staff Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Malki, head of Qatar's airlift selection committee. "The aircraft forms the core of the nation's strategic airborne lift capability."

United Arab Emirates

In Jan 2010 The United Arab Emirates announced a plan to procure six C-17 airlifters over the Airbus A400M. "The C-17 will give the UAE the ability to perform a variety of humanitarian and strategic lift operations around the world in support of both national and international missions," said Major General Staff Pilot Faris Mohamed Al Mazrouei. "These missions require us to be ready for any contingency at any time and any place, and the C-17 meets our requirements."

The Pentagon says the UAE is considering use of the airlifters not just for regional transport, but also “to support U.S. and NATO airlift requirements in Afghanistan.” The UAE military already has been quietly supporting Afghanistan operations, having deployed unmanned aircraft to Helmand province to provide additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity to the International Security Assistance Force.

The key attribute of the C-17 ahead of the A400M is its ability to reverse down a runway where a turning circle doesn’t exist – the A400M cannot match this unique feature and will remain averse to operating into such theatres when it’s finally delivered.

Under the agreement, the UAE will take delivery of four C-17s in 2011 and two in 2012.


In June 2009, the Indian Air Force (IAF) selected the C-17 to fulfill its Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft requirement. If approved by the Indian Defense Ministry, the C-17 would replace the Ilyushin Il-76 as the IAF's largest heavy lift transport aircraft in service. In January 2010, the US Government received a request from India for 10 C-17s through the US Government's Foreign Military Sales program, and was approved by US Congress in June 2010. Signing of a contract for the sale is pending.

On 23 June, the Indian Air Force successfully test-landed a USAF C-17 at the Gaggal Airport, India. This completed the IAF's C-17 trials. In August 2010, it was reported that the IAF is seeking to order a total of 16 C-17s.


·         TYPE: Strategic troop / cargo transport

·         POWER: Four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, each 40,440 lbs thrust

·         SPEED: Maximum speed 570 mph. 

·         RANGE: Unlimited with in-flight refueling, Empty - (C-17) 5,294 mi, (C-17ER) 7,135 mi  Maximum payload - (Both) 2,785 mi

·         MAXIMUM T.O. WEIGHT: 585,000 lbs

·         DIMENSIONS: Span 169 ft 10 in ,  Length 174 ft  Height 55 ft 1 in

·         CARGO COMPARTMENT DIMENSIONS : Height 12ft 4 in, Length 88 ft, Width 18 ft; 

·         CREW: Three; Two Pilots, one Loadmaster.  

·         PRODUCTION TOTALS: (Planned) 242 (C-17A)

·          UNIT COST: $236.7 million dollars


Air Mobility Command

62d AW ;  4th AS (2002-     ),  7th AS (1999-     ), 8th AS (2001-    ), 10 AS (2003-    ) 


Air Force Reserve / Air Force Reserve Command 

446thAW;  97th AS (2002-    ), 313d AS (2001-    ), 728th AS (1999-    )    


The newest addition to the Museum collection - - - - -  well some day in the future McChord's first C-17A might be displayed along side McChord's first C-141 s/n -0277. The C-17 in this picture, s/n - 0052 is seen here minutes after its arrival to McChord on July 30, 1999.


On July 30, 1999 the 62d & 446th Airlift Wing's began receiving their first of a new fleet of C-17's to replace its C-141 StarLifters. Since then, McChord has been home for a total of 71 individual aircraft, 49 of those  delivered straight from Boeing's Long Beach factory. When deliveries are complete a total of 52 C-17 will be based at McChord.

Below you will find listings of the many C-17's assigned to McChord, some of which have moved on to serve with other units at other Air Force Bases. Click the links below to get additional information about McChord's C-17 inventory.

Current McChord  based C-17 inventory
McChord's Factory delivered C-17's
C-17's transferred to McChord
C-17's transferred from McChord
Click the links below to get additional information about McChord's C-17 inventory.
Named USAF C-17A Globemasters
"Lets Roll" Nose Art Aircraft
(Click images below for additional pictures and unit information)
412th Test Wing (AFMC) 97th Air Mobility Wing (AETC)



437th Airlift Wing (AMC)
315th Airlift Wing (AFRC)
62nd Airlift Wing (AMC)
446th Airlift Wing (AFRC)



172nd Airlift Wing (ANG)

305th Air Mobility Wing (AMC)
514th Air Mobility Wing (AFRC)
452nd Air Mobility Wing (AFRC) 15th Airlift Wing (PACAF)
154th Wing (ANG)
60th Air Mobility Wing (AMC)
349th Air Mobility Wing (AFRC)
436th Airlift Wing (AMC)
512th Airlift Wing (AFRC)
3rd Wing (PACAF)
176th Wing (ANG)
445th Airlift Wing (AFRC) 
105th Airlift Wing (ANG)  

No. 99th Squadron (RAF)

No. 36th Squadron (RAAF)
8th Wing (CAF) NATO/SAC 
Qatar Emiri Air Force   United Arab Emirates (U.A.E)
Website provided and maintained by:
 McChord Air Museum Foundation
P.O. Box 4205
McChord AFB, WA. 98438-0205
e-mail - mamfound@mcchordairmuseum.org