Boeing and Royal Air Force partnership marks 20 years of C-17 in the UK
- Boeing’s C-17 has served the UK Armed Forces for two decades, first arriving in May 2001.
- More than 100 Boeing employees and apprentices across the UK support every aspect of the UK’s C-17 mission.
- The Royal Air Force C-17 fleet has seen extensive service across the globe in support of UK defence and humanitarian missions.
RAF Brize Norton, May 23, 2021 - Today marks 20 years since the Boeing-built C-17 landed for the first time in the UK at Royal Air Force (RAF) Brize Norton, making the RAF the first international defence force outside the U.S. to fly the C-17.
The first C-17 delivered to the RAF at Boeing's Long Beach facility in California on 17 May 2001. The aircraft, registered to the RAF as “ZZ171” was initially flown to Charleston AFB, South Carolina to collect support equipment, before being flown to RAF Brize Norton by a crew from 99 Squadron, arriving in the UK on 23 May 2001.
Since then, the UK’s fleet has grown to eight aircraft. Boeing now has more than 100 employees and apprentices at RAF Brize Norton and the International Training Centre in Farnborough, supporting every aspect of the C-17 mission. The RAF is one of nine global operators.
Leveraging the aircraft’s 85-ton cargo capacity and ability to accommodate 18 pallet positions, the RAF has conducted countless C-17 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver much-needed supplies, safely transport troops and conduct aeromedical evacuation. RAF C-17s remain regular visitors to allied forward bases, particularly in connection with French anti-terrorist work in Africa.
The C-17 is also called upon to fulfill a number of humanitarian roles. In 2020, an RAF C-17 was part of the UK’s support to disaster relief operations in Beirut, delivering cold storage containers to the Lebanese Armed Forces to store medical supplies. C-17s were also used in the government’s Covid-19 response to deliver PPE and more recently to transport vaccinations to British Overseas Territories.
"It’s difficult to put into words the value the C-17 has provided over the last twenty years both to the UK and defence, but also to the countless number of people it has provided support to in times of crisis, all over the world”, said Wing Commander Kevin Latchman, Officer Commanding 99 Squadron. “Having first flown the C-17 as a junior Flight Lieutenant over a decade ago, it’s been a true honour to return to the fleet to command 99 Squadron. Flying the C-17 is just as rewarding and exhilarating today as it was when I first qualified as a Co Pilot in 2007."
“There was just a year and a day between the decision to procure the C-17 and its delivery to the UK”, said Malcolm Brecht, a former RAF pilot and now Director, C-17 International, Program Integration and Field Services at Boeing. Malcolm took delivery of the first RAF C-17 from Long Beach, California, on 17 May 2001, and supported its introduction into service as the first Officer Commanding 99 Squadron. “During that year, my RAF colleagues and I were based in the US and trained on every aspect, nut and bolt of the aircraft. Collecting the first of the RAF’s C-17s and flying it across the Atlantic with only five flight hours on the clock demonstrated the well-established trust and partnership that already existed between the RAF and Boeing, and which continues today.”
Through its partnership with the RAF, Boeing contributes to the fleet’s overall mission readiness and preparedness. Since 2014, Boeing has been delivering aircrew and engineering training support for the RAF’s C-17 fleet at the UK C-17 International Training Centre (ITC) in Farnborough. Boeing is also innovating for the future of the fleet with the development of products and technologies to meet the RAF’s new and emerging requirements, including mixed reality aircraft maintenance headsets and data-driven insights to drive operational efficiencies.
The RAF was the first international C-17 customer to utilise a unique agreement developed by the U.S. Air Force and Boeing based on aircraft readiness, not specific parts or services. The structure of the agreement ensures cooperative support and spares to the RAF fleet no matter their geographic location.
About the Boeing C-17
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is designed to fulfill military and humanitarian airlift needs well into the 21st century. A high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed aircraft with a rear-loading ramp, the C-17 can carry large combat equipment and troops or humanitarian aid across international distances directly to small austere airfields anywhere in the world. The C-17 is equipped with an externally blown flap system that allows a steep, low-speed final approach and low-landing speeds for routine short-field landings.
About Boeing in the United Kingdom
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defence, space and security systems, and global services. The company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries, and leverages the talents of a global supplier base. Boeing has a UK workforce of 2,500 direct employees across the country and spends £2 billion a year in the UK supply chain. For more information visit www.boeing.co.uk or follow us on Twitter @BoeingUK.
Malcolm Brecht, former OC 99 Squadron and current Boeing employee, was the operating pilot for the aircraft’s first Atlantic crossing, arriving at RAF Brize Norton on 23 May 2001. He is pictured far left with members of the Royal Air Force C-17 Programme Team, the Boeing C-17 team and joined by US Air Force and Army colleagues.