The commander of the Air Force's Air Mobility Command declared the Initial
Operational Capability (IOC) of the first C-17 Globemaster III squadron today.
Gen. Robert L. Rutherford's decision is a significant milestone for America's
newest airlifter. It means the 17th Airlift Squadron, assigned to the 437th
Airlift Wing, and the Air Force Reserve's 317th Airlift Squadron, assigned to
the 315th Airlift Wing, both at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., will
officially begin flying operational AMC "Global Reach" missions.
The first C-17 arrived at Charleston AFB in June 1993. By December 1994, the
437th was fully equipped with a fleet of 12 aircraft and 48 crews. The 12
aircraft will be shared with the Air Force Reserve unit. Together, both active
duty and reserve aircrews have already demonstrated the C-17's ability to
airlift personnel and equipment with missions to Southwest Asia, Central
America and the Caribbean basin.
IOC declaration is a major step in modernizing the nation's strategic airlift
fleet. The C-17, designed to replace the aging C-141 Starlifter fleet as
the nation's core airlift aircraft, combines the best features of older
airlifters within a single airframe. The C-17 is about the size of the C-141,
but can carry twice the Starlifter's payload. It can also carry outsized
equipment strategic distances like the C-5 Galaxy, yet land on airstrips
normally accessible only to the C-130 Hercules.
Built by McDonnell Douglas at Long Beach, Calif., the C-17 can carry 160,000
pounds of cargo, unrefueled, 2,400 nautical miles at a cruise speed of 450
knots. With a maximum payload of 169,000 pounds, the aircraft is designed to
carry every air transportable piece of equipment in the U.S. Army inventory,
from Patriot air defense missile batteries and Bradley fighting vehicles to
M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks.
The C-17 can be aerial refueled, land on airstrips as short as 3,000 feet, back
up, rapidly offload cargo, and is designed to airdrop equipment, cargo or
paratroopers. The aircraft completed developmental testing of these
capabilities on Dec. 16, 1994. During these tests, the C-17 set 21 world
performance records in three weight classes of the heavy aircraft category and
one additional world record in the short takeoff and landing category.
The Air Force has contracted to buy 40 C-17s from McDonnell Douglas. A Defense
Acquisition Board decision on extending the buy beyond 40 aircraft is scheduled
for November 1995.