PICTURES & VIDEO: RAF C-17 fleet reaches 50,000h milestone

London
Source:
This story is sourced from Flight International
Subscribe today »

The UK Royal Air Force's fleet of six Boeing C-17 airlifters, based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, has reached the 50,000 flight hour milestone after eight years in service.

"We are proud to have reached this figure at a faster rate than the US Air Force," says Wg Cdr Simon Edwards, officer commanding of the RAF's sole C-17-equipped unit, 99 Sqn. Some 80% of the squadron's current tasking is to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says.

The RAF's first of four leased C-17s was delivered in May 2001. These were purchased at the end of their lease term and were by two additional aircraft in April and June last year.

max kingsley-jones/flight international
 © Max Kingsley-Jones/Flight International

"I can't imagine operating without them," says RAF Air Marshal Kevin Leeson, assistant chief of the defence staff for logistic operations.

The bulk of the 200 C-17s in service worldwide are operated by the USAF, which has a fleet of 186 aircraft. Along with the UK, other international operators include Australia and Canada, while the first examples are also close to delivery for Qatar and a 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability consortium formed of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. The United Arab Emirates is Boeing's latest customer for the type, and plans to acquire four aircraft.

Although the RAF has no further C-17s on order, Edwards says he is waiting to hear whether the acquisition of a seventh aircraft will be approved following the UK Ministry of Defence's Planning Round 2009 process.

max kingsley-jones/flight international
 © Max Kingsley-Jones/Flight International

 

There are no plans for the C-17 to supplement the RAF's Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules fleet in the tactical in-theatre role, but Edwards hints that this could change. "We are always considering how we use the aircraft. On current plans the A400M will do that role [replacing the C-130K], so we are tied to the what happens to the A400M," he says.

max kingsley-jones/flight international
 © Max Kingsley-Jones/Flight International

The European project is the subject of continued discussions between Airbus Military and its seven launch nations via the OCCAR procurement agency. The RAF had been due to receive its first of 25 A400Ms this year, but deliveries of the type have slipped by an estimated three years, with the first flight test example also yet to fly.