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Assault Support With A Future: Marine C-17s

Assault Support With A Future: Marine C-17s


AUTHOR Major T.P. Brehm


CSC 1988









I. Purpose: To identify shortfalls and vulnerabilities

of persent day fixed-wing assault support aircraft, the

KC-130. To present alternative views on possible re-

placement aircraft, Marine C-17s.


II. Thesis: The Marine Corps can significantly increase

the efficiency and capability of fixed-wing assault support

with the acquisition of the C-17 aircraft.


III. Data: Marine Corps fixed-wing assault support

assets are the KC-130. An aircraft with an enviable

history, the C-130 is in service for fifty nations. Over

1800 aircraft of this type have been built. Based on

1950 technology the time has come to begin planning for a

replacement aircraft. The new C-17 is a possible alter-

native aircraft. Although much larger than a KC-130, its

maneuverability and survival possibilities are greatly

enhanced by improved technology. It can outperform the

KC-130 by a 4:1 margin. With first production of the C-17

beginning next year, planning for a replacement aircraft

for the KC-130 should begin soon. The C-17 offers the

advantages of extraordinary airlift, reduced manpower,

and reduced maintenance costs. A major selling point is

the ability of the C-17 to direct delivery cargo loads

into small airfields.


IV. Conclusion: The C-17 is an impressive airlift

aircraft. The airlift capability for the military will

increase two fold upon implementation of this aircraft

into the fleet.


V. Summary: The U.S.M.C. needs to look at the C-17

as a possible replacement for the aging KC-130. The

C-17 offers some unique capabilities to our mission of

fixed-wing assault support for the Marine Air Ground Team.









Thesis Statement. The Marine Corps can significantly in-

crease the efficiency and capability of fixed-wing assault

support with the acquisition of the C-17 aircraft.


I. Marine Aviation

A. Mission of Marine Aviation

B. Assault Support

1. Rotary Wing

2. Fixed-Wing

II. KC-130

A. Superb Record

B. Current Fleet

III. KC-130 Replacement



C. C-17

IV. Origins of C-17

A. Size

B. Cost

C. Cargo Capability

D. Range

E. Fuel

F. Speed

G. Runway Requirements

H. Crewmembers

I. Aircraft Systems

J. Safety/Survival Systems

K. Maintenance

L. Fuel Download

V. C-17 vs KC-130






Figure Page


1. Airlift Aircraft Capabilities

Comparison.................................. 11

2. Artists Concept of C-17 Aircraft.............. 16

3. C-17 Specifications Data...................... 17

4. Marine Corps Outside Load Configuration....... 19

5. Payload Range Comparison Chart................ 20

6. Fuel Offload Comparison Chart

(1000NM Return)............................. 22

7. Artists Conception of C-17 Tanker Variant..... 23

8. Runway Distribution Comparison Chart.......... 25

9. Fuel Download Capability Chart................ 29






As Marine Corps aviation approaches the final decade

of the twentieth century, it is faced with innumerable

challenges. The continually changing and ever growing

threat cause constant reorganization and modernization of

our aircraft fleet. The high technology incorporated

into our equipment makes it very expensive. Budget

restraints continually plague new acquisitions, with

questions arising as to affordability and maintainability.

Manpower and support requirements are also important

considerations. The challenges are real; requiring fore-

sight and flexibility in seeking the required solutions.

Before examining one particular aspect of aviation

within the Marine Corps, it would be appropriate to

review the mission of Marine aviation as it pertains

to the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) concept.

The multitude of tasks required to support the Marine

Corps aviation mission have been categorized into

separate functional areas. Functions within the oper-

ational capabilities of Marine aviation units encompass

air reconnaissance, antiair warfare, assault support,

offensive air support, electronic warfare, and control

of aircraft and missiles. Many improvements have been

made within all six functional areas, however, there

remain critical weaknesses in some of the areas. For

the purpose of this paper, I have focused on the area

of assault support, in particular, fixed wing assault

support within the Marine Corps. Assault support will

be discussed as it is performed today in the Marine

Corps, with analysis of future programs and requirements.

Assault support is a Marine Corps term indicating

those actions required for the airlift of personnel,

supplies and equipment into or within the battle area

by helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft. Assault support

includes fixed-wing transport, inflight refueling, and

helicopterborne operations; such operations may be

tactical, administrative, or logistic in nature.

Rotary wing assault support is provided by a number

of different helicopters within the Marine Corps. The

recent addition of the CH-53E, Super Stallion helicopter,

has significantly enhanced this form of assault support.

The projected acquisition of the new V-22, Osprey, Tilt-

Rotor aircraft, has the potential to revolutionize this

aspect of assault support. With its increased capabil-

ities, this aircraft should provide the required state

of the art technology well into the next century.

Procluding major fiscal setbacks, the rotary wing

capability to provide assault support looks very pro-

mising for years to come. In contrast to rotary wing

assault support, the fixed-wing assault support long-term

planning has fallen by the wayside. The Marine Corps

can significantly increase the efficiency and capabil-

ity of fixed-wing assault support with the acquisition

of the C-17 aircraft.

Within the realm of fixed-wing assault support for

the Marine Corps today, there exists only one aircraft;

the KC-130 "Hercules". The KC-130 is a Lockheed Aircraft

Company product that has provided versatile, reliable

service to the Marine Corps. Present KC-130 aircraft

are a variant of an original 1953 "A" model C-130.

Originally a strategic airlifter for the U.S. Air

Force, many variations of the airlifter have been devel-

oped. The Marine Corps purchased a refueling variation

in the late 60's to be utilized as an airborne tanker

and cargo aircraft. Notable successes have been achieved

with this aircraft. The Vietnam War proved that the

KC-130 could provide a variety of services to the Marine

Corps. (4:20-155)

The standard model C-130 aircraft has been a work-

horse for all the Armed Forces of the United States.

The Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard all presently fly

the C-130. The success story is illustrated by the fact

that over 1800 of these aircraft have been produced.

(4:30) In addition to the number of aircraft produced,

the aircraft is currently in service with over fifty

nations of the world. While accolades continue to

accumulate for this aircraft, defense personnel are

beginning to look to the future for replacement aircraft.

With its greatest downfall centering on poor survivability,

the small payload of 45,000 pounds of cargo is also being

scrutinized. Studies have been initiated to research

future aircraft to meet new airlift requirements. (14:16)

The Air Force which is the primary user of airlift type

aircraft, is caught in a battle of priorities and poli-

tics over a replacement aircraft. They finally believe

that the C-130 is the ultimate close in aircraft. (14:18)

While placing a greater emphasis on fighter aircraft and

spare parts, the Air Force is delaying major decisions

on any replacement aircraft. The projected small defense

budget growth dims future hopes for replacement aircraft.

The acquisition of tilt-rotor technology could also re-

lieve the requirement for large numbers of fixed-wing

close in support aircraft.

Current KC-130 Fleet The KC-130 community within

the Marine Corps consists of four active duty and two

reserve squadrons of aircraft. Within all these

squadrons are three different configurations of aircraft:

the KC-130 F, R, and T model. Each progressive model

of aircraft has incorporated increased capability with

the addition of new equipment and systems. With the

final order of two KC-130T aircraft sometime in the near

future, the fleet will consist of approximately seventy (70)


The newest aircraft which are designated "T" models

are located in both of the reserve squadrons. This

placement process of aircraft is not consistent with

the normal acquisition of aircraft. Normally, these

aircraft would be placed in the active duty squadrons,

giving the older models to the reserves. The process

is backwards due to the flow funding. The procurement

of "T" model aircraft was the result of funding from

Air National Guard and Reserve appropriations. (10)

These aircraft are not transferable to the active duty


The sudden political move to acquire fourteen more

KC-130 air craft has only increased the probability that

the Marine Corps will maintain this airframe for years

to come. Aviation Weapons Requirements (APW) branch

at Headquarters Marine Corps, does not project any type

of replacement aircraft for the KC-130 until sometime

after the turn of the century. (10)

Why Replace The KC-130? Although the KC-130 is a

very capable aircraft it does have some serious draw-

backs. Perhaps its greatest shortfall is its surviva-

bility on a future battlefield. With the exception of

special mission aircraft in the Air Force, most C-130s

are very vulnerable to any kind of threat. These threats

can range from small arms fire to sophisticated missiles.

The KC-130 at the present time does not possess any

defensive equipment that might be required in a low to

medium threat environment. Although some defensive

equipment does exist, the Marine Corps does not

possess it.

The KC-130 is limited in its capability as an air-

borne tanker. When fully loaded with fuel the aircraft

is slow and presents itself as an undefended target.

With its total fuel offload relatively low, a mission

must be flown with multiple aircraft to fulfill refueling

requirements. This further compounds the target problem,

because your a bigger target, easier to see and detect.

If strategic Air Force tanker assets are available to

move aircraft across an ocean they are normally utilized.

With any shift in tanking priorites, Marine tankers be-

come the primary tanking force. These evolutions using

organic KC-130s are often slow and greatly increase time

required to move a unit. While in a refueling mission

configuration, the capability to move cargo on a

simultaneous mission is greatly reduced.

There is no doctrine or published procedures within

the Marine Corps as to techniques employed to protect

this vital asset. This fact is even more frustrating

knowing that Russian doctrine specifys that they intend

to destroy our eyes (reconnaissance aircraft), ears

(AWACS), and force multipliers (tankers) early on in a


Aerial refueling becomes critically important when

addressing the range capability of the new FA-18 aircraft.

Many scenarios involving the FA-18s require extensive

refueling considerations. The shorter ranges of the

FA-18 make the KC-130 possibly a key figure in future

air wars.

These and other shortfalls in the KC-130 have been

obvious to Marines for quite a few years. Hoping for a

low threat scenario is one way to deal with the 130s

drawbacks. Wishing away its poor capabilities and

vulnerabilities will not change things that must be


KC-130 Replacement Aircraft A newly designed air-

craft to readily replace the KC-130 is not in the

immediate future. Based on various studies, there

appears to be a number of different options available.

These options will be addressed in varying degrees of


KC-X This is a mythical tanker that would become

available sometime in the year 2005. Lockheed Aircraft

Company having done various studies, predicts that a

replacement aircraft would be required in this timeframe

to replace the C-130. This aircraft would fill the void

caused by a retiring fleet of older aircraft. (10)

All plans are purely speculation at this point. Approx-

imately 300 aircraft in our airlift inventory will be

expected to reach retirement age at the turn of the


(ATT) Advanced Tactical Airlifter This replacement

aircraft could be categorized with the KC-X with some

major differences. The detailed analysis for this air-

craft has been explored along with the (ATF) Advanced

Technology Fighter. The ATT would employ stealth

characteristics. In addition, it would have a radar

absorbing airframe and extensive electronic jammers.

Projections on this aircraft would be based on acquiring

300 of these aircraft at a cost of approximately $50

billion dollars. Although much of the research has been

done on this option the project is still in its infant


C-17 Perhaps the strongest contender to replace

the Marine Corps KC-130 would be a tanker variant of

the C-17. The C-17 aircraft is a solution to an Air

Force and Air National Guard problem involving airlift.

It should be noted that in concept this aircraft is both

a strategic and tactical airlifter. Since this aircraft

is close to entering production phase for the Air Force,

I have explored its capabilities in greater detail.

Definite comparisons can be made in regard to both


Birth of the C-17 The United States has recognized

for some time that we lacked sufficient airlift to meet

a major contingency. (1:112-116) The airlift sense of

security we possessis one that is totally unwarranted.

Since the early 70s when seventeen major mobility

studies were conducted, it was concluded airlift require-

ments far exceed capabilities. (16) Following these

independent mobility studies, was a Congressionally

Mandated Mobility Study (CMMS) by DOD for Congress in

1981. This was the most comprehensive study to date

on overall U.S. military mobility requirements. It

documented shortfalls in our airlift capability. It

also identified problems with the Civilian Reserve Air-

lift Fleet (CRAF). CRAF was low in the number of cargo

carriers it possessed. It also had a pilot shortage

because quite a few CRAF pilots were already military

reserve pilots. In the event of a contingency CRAF

would need lots of time to reconfigure aircraft. The

time needed might not be available. Lastly and perhaps

the most important; the CRAF had never been fully tested.

With all the data compiled, the CMMS recommended

a goal of 66 million ton miles (MTM) per day as a

workable airlift figure. This goal was already 20 MTM

per day over our 1986 airlift capability. In an acutal

war situation a total of 88 MTM per day has been

calculated. (3) This figure is more than two times

over airlift capability of today. If you combine these

figures with the ages of our present aircraft fleet,

the airlift picture becomes even bleaker. By 1990

the average age of a C-141 will be greater than 20 years

old. The C-130s will be greater than 33 years old. The

cost incurred in the long run to fix or extend the air-

frame life of these aircraft is enormous. The ground-

work was laid for a new generation of airlifter.

The McDonnell Douglas C-17 aircraft is a derivative

of its prototype YC-15 aircraft which flew in the late

70s. This prototype was built as a test vehicle,

competing with other contractors for the airlift contract.

After a flyoff was conducted, the project was shelved

for some time. Reincarnated as the CX Program,

McDonnell Douglas was finally awarded the contract for

full scale development of the C-17. Relying on proven

technology and off the shelf components, McDonnell

Douglas is gearing up to begin initial construction.

The C-17 is to be flown first by the Military

Airlift Command (MAC) of the U.S. Air Force. This will

be the first airlifter to perform the entire spectrum

of the MAC mission. " Figure 1" illustrates a comparison

of all airlift aircraft in use by the United States.

The C-17 will be a very capable intertheatre and intra-

theatre aircraft. Another major selling point for this

particular aircraft is its ability to direct deliver to


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an airbase. The ability to go directly to an intratheatre

base would bypass and eliminate the requirement for any

intermediate transhipment base. Previously all C-141

and C-5 flights would unload at a base only to have the

C-130 move some of the loads to forward bases. Some

oversize and all out size loads that would not fit into

a C-130 would be moved via land or sea transportation.

Saturation at the intermediate bases would significantly

be reduced with the C-17s direct delivery capability.

All of this capability was the result of years worth of

feedback from field commanders.

Theatre commanders were continually asking for the

direct delivery of precious assets to forward deployment

sites. Military power is meaningless from a warfighting

perspective if it cannot be brought to bear when and where

it is needed. The C-17 is expected to fill a void that

previously was not attainable. This requirement for

direct delivery would not come without some expense.

Any new aircraft was bound to stir controversy.

The cost effectiveness of the C-17 has been

sufficiently demonstrated, as reported by the General

Accounting Office (GAO) for the U.S. Government. (2:6)

The GAO supports the acquisition of the C-17 for a

number of reasons including: (1) operational utility

(2) life-cycle costs (3) lower manpower requirements.

These reasons will be elaborated upon in greater detail

later in this paper. The GAO agreed that a fleet of

C-17s would be expensive, but you can operate the fleet

that you buy. This statement reflects a comparison to

older aircraft and their higher operating costs. The

only other program offered in disagreement to a C-17

buy was the purchase of more C-5Bs. The lower operating

and support costs more than offset the higher acquisition

costs for the C-17. With the cost effectiveness of the

C-17 proven, the development plan was initiated.

The development phase of the C-17 is well underway.

Airframe models have been built with all required mile-

stone goals met. The first production aircraft is to be

completed in December 1989. The C-17 will fly for the

first time in 1990. Full production, consisting of 29

aircraft is to occur in 1993. (8:1-2) Deliveries will

continue through the year 2000.

The initial operating capability requires a 12

aircraft fleet to be operational in the 1992 timeframe.

The program production run would allow the manufacture

of 210 aircraft. Initially, the first 12 aircraft would

become the training squadron for the Air Force. The

Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve would receive

48 total aircraft. The remaining 150 aircraft would be

phased into the active duty Air Force fleet. Selected

air bases on the east and west coast would receive air-

craft as they were built. With all these new aircraft

coming into the inventory some older aircraft would be

retired. (16) At present, approximately 180 of the

Air Force C-130 aircraft would be retired. Older model

C-130s in the reserves would be the first to be replaced.

Newer model C-130s from the active side would be trans-

ferred to the reserves. The long term effects of the

program will significantly enhance an aging fleet of


In 1990, the average age of one of the primary

Air Force airlifters, the C-141, will be greater than

twenty years old. The average age of a C-130 will be

greater than 33 years of age. To project Air Force

lift capability past the year 2020 reveals only three

aircraft performing the airlift role: (1) C-130,

(2) C-17, (3) C-5B and C-5A with the new wing.

The C-17 will play a vital part in future airlift for

all the Armed Services. With all its capabilities,

could the Marine Corps replace its fleet of KC-130

with C-17s?

C-17 Application To U.S. Marine Corps The C-17

as it is presently being developed is purely an Air

Force project, designed to increase both strategic and

tactical airlift. Its impact on airlift in the next

decade will improve the flexibility to maneuver rapidly

to many places around the world. The Marine Corps will

rely heavily on the C-17 for its strategic mobility.

All this airlift will be provided by MAC. Could the

addition of a Marine Corps C-17 fleet increase the

assault support capability of Marine aviation? A

comparison of vital statistics between the C-17 and

the KC-130 reveal some interesting possibilities.

Size "Figures 2" and "3" show the size of the

C-17.(9:8) The dimensions of the C-17 are approximately

equal in size to a C-141. In comparison to a C-130,

the wing span of a C-17 is 28 feet longer. Even though

the C-17 is larger than the KC-130, advanced technology

makes it very maneuverable both on the ground and in

the air.

Cost Using 1988 dollar figures, a KC-130 cost

approximately 21 million dollars an aircraft. In com-

parison, the C-17 costs 94 million dollars per aircraft. (3)

The total Air Force budget for the entire purchase of

210 C-17 aircraft is 37.5 billion dollars. Initially

these figures might be startling, but further analysis

reveals that the cost can be offset by the increased

capabilities. These figures are not that high when

compared with a fighter aircraft or a tilt-rotor aircraft.

Cargo Capability The cargo capability of the C-17

is approximately two times that of a C-141, and four

times the amount of a C-130. The weight difference is

172,200 pounds for the C-17 vice 40,000 pounds for the

KC-130. All the cargo weight moved by a KC-130 could


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be placed on the ramp of & C-17. While both aircraft

can carry oversize loads, only the C-17 can accomodate

outsize loads. This is important in the event that heavy

equipment such as tanks, helicopters, etc..need moved.

The C-17 is capable of moving most of the Marine Corps

assault force equipment. "Figure 4" depicts a typical

configuration of Marine Corps equipment ready for move-

ment. The ability to aerial deliver outsize loads would

enhance our ability to rapidly resupply ground units.

The significant increase in cargo airlift capability is

one of the C-17s strongest selling points.

Range Advanced technology in the form of winglets,

strakes, and supercritical wing design all contribute

to a very fuel efficient aircraft. The increased fuel

efficiency and speed make long range flights feasible.

"Figure 5" depicts payload/range comparison of all four

airlift aircraft in our inventory. With C-17 payloads

four times as large as the C-130s it continues to out-

range the C-130. The additional range capability could

prove critical in timely contingency situations. This

is very important when normal accepted deployment ranges

are 2,400 to 4,950 nautical miles. Additional range can

provide leverage to a situation where a particular

airfield is saturated or has been interdicted by an



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Fuel The primary mission of the KC-130 for the

Marine Corps is airborne refueling. In that capacity,

total fuel giveaway to receiver aircraft is dependent

on a number of variables for a mission. An average

giveaway fuel figure is 50,000 pounds of fuel. Figure

"6" depicts the fuel offload comparison to the KC-10A.

The KC-10A is the primary strategic tanker for the U.S.

Air Force. Careful analysis of "Figure 6" reveals that

the C-17 has tremendous potential as a tanker. The C-17

again is able to lift a load (fuel) four times the

amount of the KC-130. Not only is there more fuel de-

livered, but this capability gets there faster. "Figure

7" depicts an artists conception of the tanker variant

of the C-17.(15) Preliminary data has been calculated

on a KC-17. (7) When in a tanker configuration, the

C-17 can also carry a cargo load.

Speed The C-17 at altitude cruises at .77 mach

or 410 knots indicated airspeed. For low level ingress

to airfields or aerial refueling coordination points

the speed is 350 knots indicated. These speeds are

compatible with high speed fighter attack aircraft in

the fleet. The KC-130 at altitude cruises at 230 knots

indicated airspeed. Low level speed is limited to 240

knots indicated airspeed. At these slower speeds high

speed aircraft must slow down to receive fuel from the



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Runway Requirements The runway requirements for

a C-17 are considerable reduced over other aircraft.

Current MAC requirements for all of its long range air-

craft is a minimum runway of 150' X 5000'. (17) The

C-17 requirements for a runway are 90' X 3000'. This

significant reduction increases usable airfields in the

world by a 12 fold figure. "Figure 8" depicts the

increased number of delivery locations available to

commanders. This short field capability is similar

to the short field characteristics of the KC-130. The

runway required for a KC-130 would be 60' X 3000'. The

C-17 has superior ground handling capabilities. The

ability to back-up and perform a 180 degree turn in 80' enable

the C-17 to operate in limited parking aprons and ramps.

Crewmembers Another major selling point for the

C-17 was the reduced number of crewmembers. (12) A

C-17 crew will consist of two pilots and one loadmaster.

This drastic change in the amount of crewmembers is due

to computerization and greater system capability for

the C-17. A reduction in crewmembers means fewer per-

sonnel would be exposed to potential threats. Initial

estimates are that as many as 14,800 fewer personnel

will be needed for the C-17 project. (16) The KC-130

requires a minimum of five crewmembers for a mission.

Since forming two reserve squadrons of KC-130s, a fleet

replacement squadron was formed to train the additional



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Aircraft Systems The C-17 incorporates the latest

high technology systems in its airframe. Proven

technology and off the shelf components provide signifi-

cant cost savings. Most of the aircraft systems are

double to triple redundant. Fuel and electric systems

are simply turn on and leave on. A crewmember is alerted

when there is a discrepancy within a system. Avionics

systems are hardened for an EMP threat. Radios include

satellite systems with data link capability. A mission

computer is the brains for a particular mission, re-

ceiving guidance from four independent navigation systems.

Electronics flight information system provides the latest

in cockpit layout. The normal yoke used in most trans-

port type aircraft is replaced by a stick, enhancing

maneuverability and precision inflight. Hard points

are designed in the outer wings for future attachment

of a hose reel. This particular fact is important so

major structure changes will not be required later. The

aerial refueler, tanker model varient could easily grow

out of the original C-17A. The engines used on the C-17

are the same engines used on the commercial version of

a Boeing 757 or 767. In flight these engines provide

low noise and smoke levels. When the engines are reversed

the thrust is vectored up and forward. With the thrust

being vectored above the aircraft foreign object damage

is kept at a minimum. In contrast to the KC-130 there are

no propellers alleviating an entire system of potential

problems. The engines provide enough power for the air-

craft that it can fly on only two of the four engines.

Safety/Survival Systems Unlike any previous trans-

port aircraft the C-17 has numerous safety and self-

defense systems. All fuel lines are the self-sealing

type. This prevents not only loss of fuel but reduces

a fire hazard. All fuel tanks are pressurized by a

nitrogen generating system. As fuel is used, the empty

space is replaced by nitrogen to prevent an explosion

if the tank if ruptured. This particular type of system

is superior to the foam system used in the C-130. Not

only is nitrogen system safer, it is more economical.

With the tank foam, the capacity of a tank is diminished

and weight is increased. Marine KC-130s do not have any

type of foam or nitrogen system in our fuel tanks.

Armor plating surrounds all three crew positions of the

C-17. To further enhance survival, armor seats are part

of the standard airframe. Armor plating and armor crew

seats are not installed on Marine KC-130s. The C-17

has provisions for the installation of various defensive

systems. A radar warning system will be available, with

electronic countermeasures control panel in the cockpit.

Infra-red missile protection will also be provided in

this aircraft. As stated previously, the KC-130 does not

have any defensive equipment.

C-17 Maintenance Another strong selling point for

the C-17 was its projected maintainability, reliability,

and availability. (13) The projected goal for maintain-

ability is 18.6 aircraft maintenance manhours per flight

hour. This figure is half of the next best aircraft in

the transport fleet. Reliability goal is 93% system

mission completion success probability. Aircraft

availability is split into two separate areas. Full

mission capable rate is projected to be 74.7%. The

partial mission capable rate is projected to be 82.5%.

Of interesting note is that if the aircraft does not

live up to these projected figures, the contractor,

McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company, is held responsible.

Any capability not achieved must be corrected by the


Fuel Download The C-17 has a unique ability to

download. "Figure 9" depicts a mission fuel download

scenario. (7) The wing on a C-17 is large enough to

store large amounts of various fuels. Once on the ground

this fuel can be pumped into trucks or bladders. A

feature unique to the C-17 is that it can carry the

fuel tanks and then fill them.

This brief expository has shown the C-17 as a very

capable airlifter of the future. Its unique capabilities

could definitely increase our ability to provide fixed-

wing assault support.


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As previously stated, McDonnell Douglas has done

some preliminary work on using the C-17 as a tanker.

It is also looking at a possible variant for airborne

C3,gunships, reconnaisance platform, EW platform, and

possible AWACS.

The idea of replacing our present fleet of KC-130s

with C-17 bears come thoughtful consideration. Six

squadrons of KC-130s could be transformed into only

three squadrons of C-17. A squadron of C-17s would only

require six to eight aircraft, vice the normal twelve

required in a KC-13O squadron.

Crewmembers requirements would be drastically re-

duced. The projected pilot shortage could definitely

be effected.

The capability of organic heavy airlift could sig-

nificantly change closure rates to any hotspot in the

world. Many would agree that the C-17 is a strategic

asset that should only belong to the Air Force. It seems

ironic that the C-130 originally started out the same way,

yet today the Marine Corps flys the KC-130.

MAC has the primary mission of moving Marine Corps

assets to any forward basing in the world. What would

happen in a large contingency when priorities left the

Marine Corps near the bottom on the priority list.

When Air Force tankers are required to refuel deploying

Air Force squadrons, will the Marine Corps be able to

move its aircraft? Former Secretary of the Navy, John

Lehman, saw the need for Naval land based tankers.

The idea of acquiring something on the scale of a

C-17 would face many problems. Budget restrictions with

future dollars becoming scarce make long range goals very

difficult. A funding clash with the V-22 and other air-

craft, would probably make the chance of acquiring a C-17

fleet next to impossible. The joint structure with the

Air Force over strategic airlift would also cause many


With all these problems facing such a bold plan, it

should make one wonder whether such a plan could work.

The Marine Corps could implement the C-17 into its assault

support mission.

A decision not to replace a fleet of aircraft becomes

more expensive every year it is delayed. The organic lift

capability of the C-17 could provide a quicker marriage to

MPS in a contingency situation. The possibility of losing

foreign bases continues to increase airlift requirements.

All the indicators seem to focus on an upgrade of our

ability to provide fixed-wing assault support. The Marine

Corps should begin planning now for the airlift requirement

of the future, by placing a high priority on modernizing

our fixed-wing assault support fleet with the C-17.






1. Bahnsen, John C. Brig Gen, USA (Ret). "Mr. President,

We Can't Go!" Armed Forces Journal, 125 (October 1987)


2. Cassidy, Duane H., General, USAF CinCMAC. "(CinCMAC

Relieved at GAO Vindication of USAF's C-17."

Armed Forces Journal, 124 (June 1987), 6.


3. Crowley, Thomas, LtCol USAF, Chief of C-17 Program

Division, DCS Plans, Headquarters Military Airlift

Command. Personal interview about C-17 program.

Scott AFB, Illinois, February 10, 1988.


4. Dabney, Joseph Earl. Herk: Hero of the Skies. 2nd Ed.

Marietta, GA: Larlin Corporation, 1986.


5. Dorr, Robert F., "McDonnell Douglas C-17 to Fly in

August 1990." Aviation News, 3-16 April 1987.


6. Fulglum, David. "Construction Begins on First C-17A

Transport." Army Times, November 16, 1987.


7. Lindbo, Don A., Military System Analysis Airlift

Operations, Douglas Aircraft Company. Personal

interview about engineering characteristics on the

C-17 aircraft. Long Beach, California, February 24,



8. McDonnell Douglas Corporation. "Mammouth Building

Opens." Douglas Aircraft Company Frontlines Magazine,

24 August 1987, pp. 1-2.


9. McDonnell Douglas Corporation. USAF/McDonnell Douglas

C-17 Technical Description. Long Beach, California

July 1987, pp.1-294.


10. Milton, Robert, LtCol USMC. Program Manager, KC-130

Aircraft, Aviation Weapons Requirements Branch,

Headquarters Marine Corps. Personal interview about

current KC-130 program for U.S. Marine Corps.

Washington, D.C., March 10, 1988.


11. Mohr, Henry, Maj Gen USA. "Deterrence and the C-17"

Journal of Defense and Diplomacy February, 1987.


12. Murray, Ronald V. Strategic Airlift Officer,

Headquarters Marine Corps. Personal interiew about

Marine Corps Strategic Airlift. Quantico, Virginia.

February 10, 1988.


13. Patterson, David. "The C-17: Dependable, Survivable."

Defense News, 10 November 1987, p 3-4.


14. Scarborough, Rowan. "What Will Replace The C-130?"

Military Forum, (January/February 1988), 16-18.


15. Tavernetti, Lynn R., C-17 Marketing Division, Douglas

Aircraft Company. Personal interview about Marine

Corps application of the C-17 aircraft. Long Beach,

California, February 23, 1988.


16. Ulsamer, Edgar. "The Airlift Master Plan." Air Force

Magazine, (May 1984).


17. U.S. Air Force, Military Airlift Command. "C-17

Production, The Operators View." Military Airlift

Command, May, 1987.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias