17 May 2001, Boeing delivers the RAF's first C-17, ZZ171, from its Long Beach site

The C-17 has served the UK Armed Forces and its citizens at home and overseas for the last 20 years.

On 17 May 2001, the Royal Air Force (RAF) took delivery of the UK’s first C-17. It landed at RAF Brize Norton on 23 May 2001, making the RAF the first international defence force outside the U.S. to fly the C-17. Today, the Royal Air Force (RAF) is one of nine C-17 operators around the world.

We have over 80 Boeing employees and apprentices at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where eight C-17 aircraft are based. Our employees work alongside the RAF, supporting every aspect of the UK C-17 mission.

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At home and overseas: The UK C-17 in times of national crisis

The RAF’s C-17 has seen extensive service across the globe including Iraq, Afghanistan and recently supporting French forces in Mali with logistics and troop movement.

The C-17 can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world. The massive, sturdy, long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions.

During peacetime, the C-17 is called upon to fulfill a number of humanitarian roles. In 2020, the RAF’s C-17 was part of the UK’s support to disaster relief operations in Beirut, delivering cold storage containers to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which were used to store medical supplies.

C-17s were also used in the government’s Covid-19 response by delivering PPE and more recently to transport vaccinations to British Overseas Territories.

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The Boeing and RAF partnership

Through our partnership with the RAF, we contribute 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.

The RAF was the first C-17 customer outside the U.S. to use a unique virtual fleet concept developed by the U.S. Air Force and Boeing. The virtual fleet structure ensures cooperative support and spares to the RAF fleet no matter their geographic location.

We are also innovating for the future by developing products and technologies to meet the RAF’s new and emerging requirements. We’re looking to digital solutions to support the UK’s C-17 fleet, including mixed reality aircraft maintenance headsets, data-driven insights and advanced communication technology systems.

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20 years of the C-17 in the UK

  • May 2000: The RAF announced it would lease four C-17s from Boeing.
  • May 2001: The UK’s first C-17, ZZ171, was delivered to the RAF at Boeing's Long Beach facility on 17 May 2001, arriving at RAF Brize Norton on 23 May 2001.
  • May-Aug 2001: The RAF's second, third and fourth C-17s were delivered completing the initial lease agreement.
  • July 2004: The MOD announced that they had elected to buy their four C-17s from Boeing at the end of the lease.
  • August 2006: A fifth C-17 was ordered by the RAF.
  • July 2007: The MOD announced that it intended to order a sixth C-17 to boost operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and confirmed the contract with Boeing later that year.
  • February 2008: The fifth C-17, ZZ175, was delivered joining the existing fleet at RAF Brize Norton.
  • June 2008: The sixth C-17, ZZ176, was received by the RAF, with the four initially leased C-17s purchased later that same year.
  • December 2009: Boeing confirmed that the RAF had ordered a seventh C-17.


  • Throughout the 2000s to mid-2010s, the RAF - alongside USAF and allied nations - conducted countless missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver much-needed supplies, safely transport troops, and conduct aeromedical evacuation.
  • November 2010: ZZ177, the seventh C-17, was delivered to the RAF.
  • February 2012: The UK announced the purchase of its eighth C-17. ZZ178 was delivered to the RAF three months later.
  • January 2013: Two RAF C-17s deployed to the French Évreux Air Base to help transport French armored vehicles during the French Intervention in Mali.
  • June 2015: An RAF C-17 was used to medically evacuate four victims of the Sousse attacks from Tunisia.

2020 and beyond

  • In more recent times, support to deployed operations remains as important as ever and RAF C-17s are regular visitors to allied forward bases, particularly in connection with French anti-terrorist work in Africa.
  • RAF C-17 deployed on missions to help combat the spread of COVID-19, including airlifting supplies, repatriating stranded citizens and delivering PPE.
  • January 2021: RAF C-17 delivered 12,800 Pfizer vaccines to Gibraltar.
  • May 2021: RAF and Boeing mark 20 years of the C-17 in the UK.