United States Air Force
The first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina on 14 July 1993. The first C-17 squadron, the 17th Airlift Squadron, became operationally ready on 17 January 1995. The C-17 has broken 22 records for oversized payloads. The C-17 was awarded U.S. aviation's most prestigious award, the Collier Trophy in 1994. A Congressional report on operations in Kosovo and Operation Allied Force noted "One of the great success stories...was the performance of the Air Force's C-17A" The C-17 flew half of the strategic airlift missions in the operation, the type could use small airfields, easing operations; rapid turnaround times also led to efficient utilization.
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, 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.
In FY 2006, eight C-17s were delivered to March Joint Air Reserve Base, California; controlled by the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), assigned to the 452d Air Mobility Wing; and 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 Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. In 2011, the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, transitioned from the C-5 to the C-17.
The C-17 have been 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. USAF C-17s have also been used to assist allies in their airlift requirements, including Canadian vehicles to Afghanistan in 2003 and Australian forces during the Australian-led military deployment to East Timor in 2006. In 2006, USAF C-17s flew 15 Canadian Leopard C2 tanks from Kyrgyzstan into Kandahar in support of NATO's Afghanistan mission. In 2013, five USAF C-17s supported French operations in Mali, operating with other nation's 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. There have been several occasions when a C-17 has been used to transport the President himself, temporarily gaining the Air Force One call sign while doing so.
There was debate over follow-on C-17 orders, Air Force having requested line shutdown while Congress attempted to reinstate production. In FY2007, the Air Force requested $1.6 billion in response to "excessive combat use" on the C-17 fleet. In 2008, USAF General Arthur Lichte, Commander of Air Mobility Command, indicated before a House of Representatives subcommittee on air and land forces a 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 observed that the production line may remain open for further C-17s to satisfy airlift requirements. The USAF eventually decided to cap its C-17 fleet at 223 aircraft, the final delivery was accepted on 12 September 2013.
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 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. The project continued, with the C-17 seen as the favorite. In the light of Airbus A400M delays, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, announced in May 2000 that the RAF would lease four C-17s at an annual cost of £100 million from Boeing for an initial seven years with an optional two-year extension. The RAF had the option to buy or return the aircraft to Boeing. The UK committed to upgrading its C-17s in line with the USAF so that if they were returned, 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. 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 service name and 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, even though the A400M appeared to be closer to production. 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). The C-17's capabilities allow the RAF to use it as an airborne hospital for medical evacuation missions.
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. 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. On 3 December 2007, the MoD announced a contract for a sixth C-17, which was received on 11 June 2008.
On 18 December 2009, Boeing confirmed that the RAF had ordered a seventh C-17, which was delivered on 16 November 2010. The UK announced the purchase of its eighth C-17 in February 2012. The RAF showed interest in buying a ninth C-17 in November 2013.
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 transported French armored vehicles to the Malian capital of Bamako during the French Intervention in Mali.
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began investigating an acquisition of heavy lift aircraft for strategic transport in 2005. In late 2005 the then Minister for Defence Robert Hill stated that such aircraft were being considered 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 in production. One major RAAF requirement was the ability to airlift the Army's M1 Abrams tanks; another requirement was immediate delivery. Though unstated, commonality with the USAF and the United Kingdom's RAF was also considered advantageous. RAAF aircraft 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.
On 2 March 2006, the Australian government announced the purchase of three aircraft and one option with an entry into service date of 2006. In July 2006 a fixed price contract was awarded to Boeing to deliver four C-17s for US$780M (A$1bn). Australia also signed a US$80.7M contract to join the global 'virtual fleet' C-17 sustainment program and the RAAF's C-17s will receive the same upgrades as the USAF's fleet.
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. Several days later the aircraft flew from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, arriving on 4 December 2006. The aircraft was formally accepted in a ceremony at Fairbairn shortly after arrival. 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. All the Australian C-17s are operated by No. 36 Squadron and are based at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.
On 18 April 2011, Boeing announced that 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. The aircraft was delivered to the RAAF on 14 September 2011. On 23 September 2011, Australian Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announced that the government was seeking information from the U.S. about the price and delivery schedule for a sixth Globemaster. In November 2011, Australia requested a sixth C-17 through the U.S. FMS program; it was ordered in June 2012, and was delivered on 1 November 2012.
Australia's C-17s have supported ADF operations around the world, including supporting Air Combat Group training deployments to the U.S., transporting Royal Australian Navy Sea Hawk helicopters and making fortnightly supply missions to 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, relief supplies to Samoa following the 2009 earthquake, aid packages 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 equipment after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami from Western Australia to Japan. In July 2014, an Australian C-17 transported several bodies of victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Ukraine to the Netherlands.
In August 2014, Defence Minister David Johnston announced the intention to purchase one or two additional C-17s. On 3 October 2014, Johnston announced the government's approval to buy two C-17s at a total cost of US$770 million. The United States Congress approved the sale under the Foreign Military Sales program. Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed in April 2015 that two additional aircraft are to be ordered, with delivery in late 2015; these are to add to the six C-17s it has as of 2015.
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.
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). On 1 February 2007, Canada awarded a contract for four C-17s with delivery beginning in August 2007. Like Australia, Canada was granted airframes originally slated for the U.S. Air Force, to accelerate delivery.
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. It was turned over to Canada on 8 August, 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. Its first operational mission was delivery of disaster relief to Jamaica in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean. The second C-17 arrived at 8 Wing, CFB Trenton on 18 October 2007. The last of four aircraft was delivered in April 2008. The official Canadian designation is CC-177 Globemaster III. The aircraft are assigned to 429 Transport Squadron based at CFB Trenton.
On 14 April 2010, a Canadian C-17 landed for the first time at CFS Alert, the world's most northerly airport. Canadian Globemasters have been deployed in support of numerous humanitarian and military missions worldwide, including Operation Hestia after the earthquake in Haiti, providing airlift as part of Operation Mobile and support to the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, Canadian C-17s established an air bridge between the two nations, deploying Canada's DART Team and delivering humanitarian supplies and equipment. In 2014, they supported Operation Reassurance and Operation Impact.
On 19 December 2014, it was reported that Canada's Defence Department intended to purchase one more C-17. On 30 March 2015, Canada's fifth C-17 landed at Canada’s largest air base, CFB Trenton. Lt. Gen. Yvan Blondin, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), noted the new military plane will improve the Canadian Armed Forces’ response capability to both domestic and international emergencies and provide support to a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance, peace support and combat.
NATO (Strategic Airlift Capability Program)
At the 2006 Farnborough Airshow, a number of NATO member nations signed a letter of intent to jointly purchase and operate several C-17s within the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability. Strategic Airlift Capability 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 as of 2010. The purchase was for two C-17s, and a third was contributed by the U.S. 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.
The SAC C-17s are based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. The Heavy Airlift Wing is hosted by Hungary, which acts as the flag nation. The aircraft are manned in similar fashion as the NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft. The C-17 flight crew are multi-national, but each mission is assigned to an individual member nation based on the SAC's annual flight hour share agreement. The NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAMPO) provides management and support for the Heavy Airlift Wing. NAMPO is a part of the NATO Support Agency (NSPA). In September 2014, Boeing revealed that the three C-17s supporting NATO SAC missions had achieved a readiness rate of nearly 94 percent over the last five years and supported over 1,000 missions.
Indian Air Force
In June 2009, the Indian Air Force (IAF) selected the C-17 for its Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft requirement, it is to replace several types of transport aircraft. In January 2010, India requested 10 C-17s through the U.S.'s Foreign Military Sales program, the sale was approved by Congress in June 2010. 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. In February 2011, the IAF and Boeing agreed terms for the order of 10 C-17s with an option for six more; the US$4.1 billion order was approved by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security on 6 June 2011. Deliveries began in June 2013 and are to continue until 2014. In 2012, the IAF reportedly finalized plans to buy six more C-17s in the 13th five-year plan (2017–2022).
The aircraft provides strategic airlift and the ability to deploy special forces, such as during national emergencies. They are operated in diverse terrain – from Himalayan air bases in North India at 13,000 ft (4,000 m) to Indian Ocean bases in South India. The C-17s are based at Hindon Air Force Station and are operated by the No. 81 Squadron Skylords. The first C-17 was delivered in January 2013 for testing and training; it was officially accepted on 11 June 2013. 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. On 2 September 2013, the Skylords squadron with three C-17s officially entered IAF service.
The Skylords regularly fly missions within India, such as to high-altitude bases at Leh and Thoise. The IAF first used the C-17 to transport an infantry battalion's equipment to Port Blair on Andaman Islands on 1 July 2013. Foreign deployments to date include Tajikistan in August 2013, and Rwanda to support Indian peacekeepers. One C-17 was used for transporting relief materials during Cyclone Phailin. The fifth aircraft was received in November 2013. The sixth aircraft was received in July 2014.
The C-17 played a crucial role in Operation Raahat, in which over 4,500 Indian nationals and 960 foreign nationals from 41 countries including US, UK, France, Canada and Egypt were evacuated from war-torn Yemen in April 2015. C-17 also played a major role in supplying and rescuing during devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake, which killed nearly 6,000. C-17s were used to transport relief material and rescue Indian citizens.
Boeing delivered Qatar's first C-17 on 11 August 2009 and the second on 10 September 2009 for the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Qatar received its third C-17 in 2012, and fourth C-17 was received on 10 December 2012. In June 2013, the New York Times reported that Qatar was allegedly using its C-17s to ship weapons from Libya to the Syrian opposition during the civil war via Turkey.
United Arab Emirates
In February 2009, the United Arab Emirates Air Force agreed to purchase four C-17s. In January 2010, a contract was signed for six C-17s. In May 2011, the first C-17 was handed over and the last of the six was received in June 2012.
Others and potential operators
Kuwait requested the purchase of one C-17 in September 2010 and a second in April 2013 through the U.S.'s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The nation ordered two C-17s; the first was delivered on 13 February 2014.
In 2015 New Zealand Defence Force was considering the purchase of two C-17s for the Royal New Zealand Air Force at an estimated cost of $600 million to replace its aging C-130s. However, Qatar's order of four of the five remaining "whitetail" aircraft leaves one C-17 available to order.