Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel – Joint Media Release – Arrival of the sixth C-17A Globemaster III Aircraft

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today officially welcomed the sixth C-17A Globemaster III aircraft to RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. 

To celebrate its arrival, a flypast was conducted over Brisbane and the Gold Coast by four C-17As, including the latest aircraft. Each aircraft carried a different cargo load, showcasing the versatility of the C-17A – an Abrams tank, a pair of Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, a specialist medical team and equipment and four Bushmasters. 

The decision to acquire a sixth C-17A through the United States Foreign Military Sales program at a total cost of around $280 million was announced in March with an expected delivery date of early 2013. 

The Government was able to acquire this aircraft in around one third of the time it would usually take, less than 12 months from approval to purchase to acceptance.  A C-17A aircraft usually takes about 34 months to produce. 

The delivery of this aircraft ahead of schedule was made possible by the United States’ willingness to redirect an aircraft already in production for use by the US Air Force to RAAF. The aircraft’s construction was completed at the Boeing production plant at Long Beach in California in October.  

In March 2011, the Government announced the purchase of a fifth C-17.  That aircraft was delivered in September 2011. 

The acquisition of a fifth and sixth C-17A effectively doubles the number of C-17A aircraft available for operations at any one time from two to four. The additional aircraft gives the Government increased options to support the wide range of contingencies that might require heavy-lift aircraft and will extend the life of the C-17 fleet by reducing the use of each aircraft. 

The C‑17A aircraft can lift very large and heavy cargoes over long distances providing a significant contribution to Australia’s ability to reach and respond to events. 

One C‑17A can carry up to four times a C-130 Hercules load in a single lift and cover twice the distance of a C-130 in three-quarters of the time. The C-17A can carry three Black Hawk helicopters or a Chinook helicopter or five Bushmasters.  

The additional C-17A will greatly increase Australia’s capacity to respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian aid. The additional aircraft will significantly enhance Australia’s strategic heavy airlift capability, enabling the ADF to rapidly deploy its current and future operational vehicles, helicopters and heavy equipment. 

Prior to the acquisition of the first C-17A aircraft, Defence relied on USAF C-17As or chartered civilian aircraft for its strategic airlift. 

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first four C-17A aircraft were delivered over the period 2006 to 2008. The first aircraft became operational in 2007, providing the Australian Defence Force with a global airlift capability. 

The Government’s decision to acquire a fifth and sixth aircraft effectively doubles the capability of Air Force’s C-17A fleet.  The original fleet of four aircraft provided two operational aircraft, and the remaining two for scheduled maintenance and training.  A fleet of six aircraft enables up to four operational aircraft, and the remaining two for training and scheduled maintenance.  

Events in Queensland, Christchurch and Japan in 2011 have highlighted that the C‑17s are an essential part of Australia’s capacity to respond to natural disasters both within Australia and within our region.  

Last year C-17 aircraft flew more than 1.2 million nautical miles (2,222,400 km) on approximately 141 missions.

The ability of C-17s to move equipment and people played a vital role in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi in north Queensland in February 2011, helping to transport ADF personnel, civilians and equipment including Army Resupply Vehicles.  They also airlifted more than 320 tonnes of cargo, including more than 200 tonnes of food supplies. C-17s also helped evacuate to safety in Brisbane more than 250 patients from Cairns Hospital and Cairns Private Hospital. 

They were also used to transport sandbags, levees, and ADF personnel and equipment to support flood relief efforts in Victoria in 2011.

C-17s also delivered much-needed equipment, stores, civilian urban search and rescue personnel, paramedics and other emergency services personnel to New Zealand in the wake of the terrible February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch and returned more than 100 Australian civilians to Australia.

In March 2011, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, C-17s moved more than a million pounds (450 tonnes) of cargo, including 41 vehicles, as well as 135 passengers as part of Australia’s relief efforts in Japan.  At one stage during the relief operation, Australia had three C-17 aircraft in Japan providing humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief support. 

The C-17s transported humanitarian relief supplies and helicopters to Burma/Thailand following Cyclone Nargis (2009) and the Pakistan Floods (2010). 

While disaster relief has been a recent public focus for C-17 operations, they also continue to support Australian and International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East, meeting their primary purpose in providing military long-range heavy airlift. 

During its relatively short service with RAAF, the C-17A has made a tremendous impact on Defence operations by deploying troops, vehicles, helicopters and cargo to Operations Slipper (Afghanistan), Catalyst (Iraq), and Astute (East Timor). 

Media note:
When available, imagery will be at:

Media contacts:
Mr Smith’s Office: Ellen Shields (02) 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473
Mr Clare’s Office: Annie Williams (02) 6277 7290 or 0428 040 522
Media Operations: (02) 6127 1999

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