September 20, 2019

GLOBEMASTER DEPARTS SYRIA: A USAF C-17 Globemaster takesoff from a coalition airfield in Northeast Syria. Photo snapped June 26, 2018. Given the dust, it’s a good bet the field is what the Pentagon euphemistically calls “austere.” Two years ago I wrote a column about the Pentagon’s airlift and sealift deficits. The mainstream media recently rediscovered the sealift shortage.

But here’s an excerpt focusing on the C-17:

Many people thought ending C-17 production was foolish. The plane has admirers around the globe, and not just in military circles. It can land on primitive airfields and has earned a stellar reputation for delivering aid in natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Would Congress be willing to fund more? That is not a likely prospect, unless more international buyers appear. There are reports of renewed international interest. Several nations fly C-17s, including India, Australia, Canada, Qatar and Britain. Note McDew and McCain mulled the combat loss of U.S. strategic transports. U.S. adversaries have developed extended range anti-air defenses, and that is evident in Asia. Replacing C-17 combat losses requires a “reserve” of some size. If the U.S. “pivot” to Asia is for real, America and its allies will need more C-17s.

A decade ago I spoke with a several logisticians who said the U.S. needed another 60 or so C-17s. At that time the USAF had about 200 C-17s. I understood the additional 60 they wanted to mean in addition to aircraft already on order. Per the 2017 column, the Pentagon has approximately 220 now, so the supply guys wanted 280. In 2017 I spoke with an Australian defense adviser. Australia had eight C-17s (and still does). He said considering Australia’s location (Pacific Ocean distances as well as continental size) Australia needed six to eight more C-17s. He lamented the fact the production line shutdown in 2015. The UAE bought the last two C-17s built before Boeing ceased production. Here’s a photo showing a low-level formation of C-17s. Final photo: 25th Infantry Division paratroopers jump from a C-17 near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

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