The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III is a four-engine heavy transport aircraft that can accommodate huge payloads and land on runways just 1km long. That flexibility comes from its savvy design, which mixes both high-lift wings and light-touch controls requiring just three onboard (pilot, co-pilot and loadmaster). Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a ramp system at the back, while its floor has nifty rollers that flip from flat to handle wheeled vehicles or pallets. All of which means it can transport just about anything, from Blue Hawk helicopters to Abrams tanks and more than 100 paratroopers with equipment. No wonder the US Air Force has a fleet of 223 of them.
Closer to home, RAAF owns eight, all operated by No. 36 Squadron and based at RAAF Base Amberley. The first arrived in 2006 and the last in 2015, complementing its CH-47F Chinooks and C-130J Hercules. If the name sounds familiar, you’ll likely have heard of the Globemaster from its humanitarian work: Australia dispatched its fleet when MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, to deliver disaster relief to citizens caught up in the Queensland floods, and carry help and supplies in the wake of 2011’s Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.