Boeing Frontiers
July 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 03 
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools

Reinforcements in sight for C-17

U.S. Air Force leaders ask for doubling of C-17 buy


In seven years of operation, America's still-young C-17 fleet has built an impressive dossier—delivering troops into combat, U.S. presidents to remote regions, humanitarian aid to the desperate, even a killer whale to Iceland—and it's about to get reinforcements.

"The C-17 does what it was designed to do," said Brig. Gen. Tom Owen, director of the U.S. Air Force C-17 System Program Office. "In fact, this airplane does more than we thought it would do, and it's setting new standards for other weapon systems."

Owen and other Air Force leaders are calling for a doubling of the 120 C-17s now on contract. "At a minimum, we need to have a fleet size of at least 222 C-17s," Gen. John W. Handy, commander in chief of the U.S. Transportation Command and commander of the Air Force Air Mobility Command, told Boeing Frontiers.

C-17Operations into landlocked Afghanistan have offered yet another opportunity for the C-17 to prove itself. "Virtually every ounce of everything that moved into Afghanistan was via airlift," said Handy, whose command is responsible for the worldwide transport of America's military. "The mobility challenge is predominantly air-centric," he said, emphasizing that the C-17's flexibility and reliability make it "the weapon system of choice."

Pentagon officials have confirmed they will soon sign a deal for 60 more C-17s, with an option for 42 after that.

"Adding more C-17s at a production rate of 15 per year allows us to take full advantage of the fiscal economies of a multiyear procurement," said Dave Bowman, Boeing vice president and C-17 program manager. "The government saves more than a billion dollars over a conventional contract, the Air Force gets the airlift it needs more quickly, and the C-17 line stays busy for several more years. That's win, win and win in my book," Bowman said.

The C-17s being delivered today have extended-range fuel tanks that allow crews to fly more cargo farther. Beginning with the 71st C-17 produced, the center of the wing was modified to carry an additional 64,000 pounds of fuel. This gives new Globemaster IIIs "longer legs" for intercontinental distances.

Keeping an eye on technology and incrementally modernizing the C-17 ensures that tomorrow's aircrews will be as satisfied with the C-17 as today's pilots are. "The C- 17 has gone 'into the dirt' during combat for the first time and has performed flawlessly," said Lt. Col. Steve Groenheim, commander of C-17 air operations into Afghanistan's isolated Camp Rhino. "We were not at all constrained about what environments we put it in. We are able to take advantage of the aircraft's superb maneuverability and use tactical measures to minimize risk to the crew and to the airplane."

Flexible Sustainment

In addition to the airplane, Boeing provides the U.S. Air Force with world-class maintenance for the C-17 in a program known as Flexible Sustainment. Under the program, Boeing provides depot-level maintenance and repairs, spare parts buying and management, engineering support, technical publications and engine overhaul management. Engine-maker Pratt & Whitney and United Airlines are partners for the engine portion of the contract.

U.S. law mandates the government maintain certain levels of public-private maintenance work shared with U.S. Air Force depots — known as Air Logistic Centers — and to maintain certain levels of core competencies and workloads within the Air Force’s organic depot capability.

As part of this program, Boeing has partnered with the three Air Force ALCs, in Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah. "We're pushing the partnership envelope by planning with all three ALCs to place C-17 work at their locations, where it benefits the war fighter and the American taxpayer," said Gus Urzua, Boeing Flexible Sustainment program manager. The additional work will start in fiscal year 2003 and will increase each year as the C-17 fleet continues to grow and mature.

"Both Boeing and the Air Logistic Centers are dedicated to ensuring that the current high level of support to the C-17 fleet continuously improves," said Urzua. "The C-17 enjoys the highest level of support of any airlifter—and we plan to keep it that way."

U.K. C-17s very busy

In their debut year as the first international C-17 flying squadron, the Royal Air Force's four Globemaster IIIs of 99 Squadron have accumulated many more hours than originally envisioned. Already exceeding 4,000 fleet flying hours, U.K. C-17s carry such diverse cargo as Chinook, Puma, Gazelle and Lynx helicopters, Long Range Insertion Craft, Tornado F3 fighter jets, and numerous wheeled road vehicles, equipment and passengers. Planned military exercises like Saif Sereaa II in Oman and Essential Harvest in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have given way to frequent sorties in support of efforts in Afghanistan.

"The U.K. C-17s' outstanding performance for the Royal Air Force is a strong endorsement for future C-17 procurement by the United Kingdom and other NATO allies," said Tom Dunehew, program manager of International C-17 programs in Long Beach.

Milestone 100th C-17

Today, the manufacture and assembly of the 100th C-17 is under way at 40 U.S. and several European locations. "The 100th airplane milestone creates an opportunity for us to celebrate along with our key suppliers and supporters," said Howard Chambers, Boeing vice president and general manager for Airlift and Tanker Programs. "We are having a series of small events recognizing each of the teams that has a role in building the C-17, culminating in a major celebration when we deliver the finished airplane in October."

It takes about a year to produce and assemble the 9.5 million parts that comprise a C-17 Globemaster III. Each of the advanced transport planes contains 120 miles of wiring, 1.3 million fasteners, 16,000 wiring connections and the unlimited pride of The Boeing Company.

C-17 Globemaster III takes off from the runway


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