Cover image: An RAF C-17 arrives at RAF Northolt from Sierra Leone in 2019 (Picture: MOD).

C-17 Globemaster: 20 Years Of RAF Operations

The transport aircraft played a key role during the UK's combat mission in Afghanistan and features in the RAF's future plans.

Cover image: An RAF C-17 arrives at RAF Northolt from Sierra Leone in 2019 (Picture: MOD).

The Royal Air Force is celebrating 20 years of C-17 Globemaster operations.

Since being delivered to the Air Force in May 2001, the long-range, heavy-lift, strategic transport aircraft has been used in operations around the world.

The aircraft played a key role in Operation Herrick – the UK's combat mission in Afghanistan - whilst it has also been used on humanitarian and peacekeeping deployments, demonstrating the C-17's ability to deliver aid and personnel to the areas which need them most.

The planes are capable of carrying a Challenger 2 tank or a Chinook helicopter and can transport 45,360kg of freight more than 8,334km.

The aircraft’s design enables high-angle, steep approaches at relatively slow speeds, allowing it to operate on small, austere airfields and onto runways as short as 3,500ft long and just 90ft wide.

C-17s are used by many nations across the world – an Indian-owned model recently landed in the UK to collect an urgent delivery of oxygen cylinders to help with the country's rise in coronavirus cases.

WATCH: The RAF's 99 Squadron developing the C-17's semi-prepared runway operations in the US.

In the UK, the Globemaster is used by the RAF's 99 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, which played a key role in the UK's airbridge capability during the War on Terror in Afghanistan, following the 9/11 terror attacks.

C-17s were able to travel non-stop from the base to Afghanistan and could be converted to offer intensive care if required.

Military assistance to relief efforts was also provided by the Globemaster fleet in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

The aircraft has a wingspan equivalent to the length of five double-decker buses - 51.74m (169ft 9in) - and is 174ft (53.04m) long and 55ft 1in (16.79m) tall.

It is also flown by XXIV Squadron, also based at Brize Norton.

The C-17 has been future-proofed through periodical maintenance checks from Boeing in the UK, alongside more extensive check-ups in the US once every five years.

Its success in service has seen the Ministry of Defence increase the C-17 fleet to eight.

The recently published Defence Command Paper stated that the C-17 and A400M aircraft would take a lead role in a thinned future transport capability within the RAF, while 2023 will see the retirement of the similar C-130J Hercules.

Cover image: An RAF C-17 arrives at RAF Northolt from Sierra Leone in 2019 (Picture: MOD).