I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to figure out I’m a fan of the Air Force’s C-17 airlifter. Indeed, I’m continuously stumped when trying to suss out why the Air Force has worked hard to stop buying them. The original programmed buy has always been for about 210 aircraft, but Congressional support for continuing buys has always been strong. In essence, Congress is offering the Air Force free airplanes (that is, money budgeted to C-17 buys wouldn’t be taken from other programs), but the Air Force keeps acting as if buying C-17s will cost them elsewhere.

There’s no such thing as too much airlift. If it were my choice, once the C-17 had its bugs worked out, I’d have doubled they buy to about 400 aircraft. As it is, the fleet is being used at MUCH higher tempos than had initially been projected. That means that airframe lifetime is being used faster and that maintenance costs are going to skyrocket. I think we’ll find in the long run that buying more jets up front would be cheaper than keeping the fleet flying in the out years. Unfortunately, fleet management hasn’t been much of an intellectual strength for any of the services lately (with the possible exception of the Army keeping the M1/M2/M3 fleet viable).

Anyway, all that is just an excuse to post this video.


H/T: Theo

10 thoughts on “C-17”

  1. Typical, it looks like a candidate for “The Bumblebee Principle”. Aerodynamically, the bumblebee can not fly, but nobody told it couldn’t, so it just does it. This is also true of some of the earlier members of the family, like the C-141 and the C-5 Series.

    Brad, about your commentary, you’re using ‘common sense’, bring it down, so the politicians can understand it.

  2. The money to buy them may not come out of the budget, but the spaces and maintenance costs for more C-17s would. And that over time isn’t a small price.

    Not saying that we don’t need more airlift and that the C-17 isn’t a great airplane…because it is. Fighter guys run the USAF and anything that gets in the way of that is a threat to them.

    1. Outlaw, don’t know why you went in the spam bucket. Sorry about that.

      And yeah, I know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts 15-20 years hence, the Air Force is gonna be suckin’ wind trying to come up with money to keep its small fleet of C-17s up. I’m aware that a 400 bird buy would be unrealistic, but a buy that completely filled the PAA for the envisioned force structure with a few spares would probably be cheaper than what they are going to face. Seriously, when’s the last time the Air Force could honestly say “wow, we should’t have bought that many planes.”

  3. The AF wanted to buy more F-22s. While it makes sense, as you and I agree, the fighter mafia runs the AF these days, but it is causing problems just as it did when the SAC mafia ran things.

    I’m afraid the twits that are staking everything on the F-35 are going to end up disappointed.

    I am gratified that the Army is going to buy C-27s. I’d be happier to see the re-establishment of the Army Air Corps. They’d probably get stuck with the F-35 though.

  4. Don’t hold your breath waiting for C-27s for the Army. The Air Force joined the project (even though they don’t really want C-27s for themselves) and pretty soon will “helpfully” offer to assume fleet management for maintenance and logistics. And scheduling. And pretty soon the Spartan will go the way of the Caribou. The Air Force will take over the fleet, and immediately get rid of it.

    1. I don’t think the Army will roll over this time. They can see the AF really doesn’t have the tactical interests of the Army at heart. I get the impression there’s a little blood in the water this time. The C-7 was an old radial Engine design that was replaced in Canada by the turbine Buffalo. The Army wanted it but lost the political battle for it. I knew a number of Army types that were very bitter about it too. If the AF tries it with the C-27, they may get a bloody nose for their trouble as there has been a goodly bit of bad blood over these things building up.

      I personally do not think a total separation of the AAF from the Army was a good idea. To have set up a Strategic AF was a good idea as the demands of such a force are much different than that of a tactical AF. Letting them have the heavy bombers, air superiority fighters, like the F-22, and enough airlift capacity to do their job, would allow the AF to do what it really wants to do. Support the troops on the ground is not what they want to do.

      The AF may fear the C-27 and what it means to the Army, but the Army needs it, and they should fight for it.

  5. Cool video. I’ve had some fun experiences with C17s including participating in the USAF reliability maintainability and availability test for them back in ’95 that involved a near mid-air involving a KC10, C17, B52, KC135 and an M1A1 and my crew. Ugly.

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