The UK Royal Air Force has received the first addition to its fleet of Boeing C-17 strategic transports in over six years, with the arrival on 7 April of a fifth example at its Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire.

Joining four aircraft leased for use by the service's 99 Sqn from 2001, ZZ175 (pictured below) is the first C-17 to have been purchased outright by the UK Ministry of Defence, which acquired the Block 17 transport under an accelerated purchase agreement with original customer the US Air Force.

A sixth example is scheduled for accepatance on 3 June, while Air Vice Marshal Andrew Pulford, Air Officer Commanding the RAF's 2 Group, confirms that "there is a stated departmental requirement for eight."

 UK C-17 lands
All pictures © Craig Hoyle/Flight International

Revealing that the UK's current C-17s have so far logged around 41,000 flight hours since their introduction to service, Air Marshal Barry Thornton, the RAF's Air Member for Materiel and Chief of Materiel (Air), says the MoD will also buy out the lease on its first four Block 14 aircraft between June and September this year. Expanding the fleet will strengthen the RAF's "airbridge" to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he adds. The new aircraft will enter frontline use "within days, rather than weeks," adds Pulford.

 UK C-17 salute


The delivery event was marked by a water-cannon salute (above) and a flypast involving Vickers VC10 and Lockheed TriStar tankers from the RAF's 101 and 216 squadrons respectively (below), which also operate from Brize Norton.

Additional types to be based at the site from early next decade will include the UK's Airbus Military A400M and Lockheed Martin C-130J/K transports and Airbus A330-200-based Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.

 VC10, TriStar pass


The UK Royal Air Force celebrated its 90th anniversary on 1 April. See our special coverage of the milestone.