With its size, payload and flight range, the C-17 Globemaster III airplane has established itself as a workhorse of the U.S. military.
A Massive Transport Aircraft
The C-17 Globemaster III is an extremely large military transport plane capable of carrying armoured vehicles, trucks and soldiers. The aircraft is so large it can haul a 70 ton M-1 Abrams tank. It also has enough room to transport 100 paratroopers in full gear. The C-17 Globemaster has broken 22 records for oversized payloads and been awarded the Collier Trophy – one of the most prestigious awards in U.S. aviation.
The U.S. military primarily uses the C-17 aircraft for rapid strategic airlift of cargo and soldiers to bases in the United States and around the world. The aircraft can deploy troops into a combat zone and then resupply them with food, equipment and vehicles.
However, the C-17 airplane has also been used for medical evacuations, airdrops, and tactical airlift campaigns. Many foreign countries use the C-17 Globemaster, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. The aircraft is used by military forces operating under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Design and Controversy
In the 1980s, the U.S. military began a program to develop a new transport aircraft to replace aging C-130 Hercules tactical airlift planes and C-141 Starlifter cargo aircraft. Military officials wanted a new airplane that would be capable of fulfilling all of their strategic airlift requirements.
The C-17 Globemaster III was initially designed by St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas – now owned by The Boeing Company of Chicago. However, the design and development phases were plagued by delays and cost overruns. At a cost of $200 million per aircraft, many politicians in Washington, D.C. questioned the projects expense. This controversy led to the number of C-17 Globemasters ordered being reduced to 120 aircraft from an initial order of 210 aircraft.
The aircraft’s manufacturer worked through the problems and controversy, and the first C-17 Globemaster III squadron went into service with the U.S. Air Force in January 1995. The aircraft’s name follows on the names of two previous cargo aircraft – the C-74 Globemaster and the C-124 Globemaster II.
Operations and Presidential Escort
The C-17 Globemaster III has been used extensively around the world since it first entered service. The aircraft is currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is used to distribute humanitarian aid to foreign countries in crisis. A C-17 aircraft accompanies the U.S. president on all domestic and foreign trips – no matter what the occasion. The aircraft is used to carry the presidential limousine and security detachments.
In 2009, the U.S. military ordered an additional 15 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This order will bring the total number of aircraft in service with the U.S. military to 205 planes.