In 2000 the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a 7-year ‘lease-and-support’ agreement with Boeing and the United States Air Force for the use of 4 Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs (3 + 1 “active reserve”) for the period 2001 – 2007, with an option for a possible extension to 9 years. Although it has the ability to operate from unprepared strips, the RAF uses the C-17 as a strategic transport aircraft to established bases, especially those that are far from Britain. The C-17 made its RAF operational debut during the Afghanistan conflict in 2001.
Front line needs soon had the C-17 fleet in high demand, and a combination of an aging C-130K Hercules force and delays to Britain’s
25 22 planned A400M transports stretched the RAF’s transport fleet even more. Instead of extending the C-17 lease, therefore, a deal struck with Boeing in 2006 saw the UK buy all 4 aircraft outright, and add a 5th aircraft to the RAF’s C-17 fleet at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Since then, the fleet has kept on growing. A 6th C-17 was ordered in 2007, a 7th was ordered in 2009, and #8 was ordered and delivered in 2012.