The Royal Australian Air Force is ready to put its first two Boeing C-17 strategic transports into operational service, after achieving initial operating capability with the type following eight months of intensive introduction to service activities.

Australia received its first of four C-17s in December 2006, with its second having followed in May and the remainder to be delivered by mid-2008.

The aircraft, which can carry a load almost four times that of the RAAF's current Lockheed Martin C-130s, will provide “a quantum leap” in the nation’s ability to rapidly lift cargo and equipment in support of military and humanitarian operations, its Department of Defence says.

australian C-17

Operated from RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland by 36 Sqn, the C-17 will undergo further development to allow the unit to fly more complex tactical roles, including the air drop of personnel and equipment, and to provide aeromedical evacuation duties, the DoD says.

Australia's $1.8 billion C-17 project budget also includes the construction of permanent facilities for 36 Sqn and support agencies at Amberley, plus facilities improvements at the RAAF's Darwin, Edinburgh, Pearce and Townsville bases.