The Australian Government has started the process for acquisition of an additional two C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft from the US.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said if the government exercises the option, the new C-17s would significantly enhance the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) capacity for operational tasks, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in the region and worldwide.

Johnston said: "The C-17A Globemasters have been integral in supporting Australians at home and abroad, assisting in our aid to communities in Queensland and Victoria after flooding and cyclones, Operation Bring Them Home from Ukraine and the search for MH370 off the West Australian coast.

"The ability to rapidly react and move large elements of Australia’s support systems over long distances during these times has highlighted the need for us to have a good sized fleet."

The RAAF currently operates six C-17As from RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, in support of domestic and international missions.

The aircraft are currently supporting Australian and coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

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"The aircraft are currently supporting Australian and coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East."

According to Johnston, the government has also requested pricing and availability data for two more aircraft through the US foreign military sales programme.

The decisions on the aircraft are being informed by the force structure review currently under way within the Department of Defence as part of the white paper process.

Manufactured by Boeing, the C-17 Globemaster is a military tactical transport aircraft designed to conduct rapid strategic airlift of troops and supply of palleted cargo to main operating bases or forward-operating bases in extreme climates worldwide.

The aircraft can land on short, sharp runways, and can also perform tactical airlift, medical evacuation and airdrop missions.

The aircraft is also operated by air forces in the US, India, UAE, Canada, Qatar, the UK and the 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of Nato and Partnership for Peace nations.

Image: A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III aircraft at Canberra Airport. Photo: courtesy of Jeff Gilbert.

Defence Technology