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C-17 Globemaster III - Operations

The combination of C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-5s compiled 11,400 sorties during the Operation Iraqi Freeddom build-up. C-5s flew about 900 fewer sorties than the Globemasters, but hauled about 11,500 more tons and 5,300 more passengers. C-5s hauled an average of 53.8 tons per sortie, compared with an average 33.1 tons by the smaller C-17.

The most reliable airlifter was the C-17, which entered the fleet in the mid-1990s. The C-17's mission capable rate dropped to 86.7 percent in February but averaged 88 percent during the four-month period ending in April, compared with the C-5's average rate of 67.5 percent.

Despite the high sortie rates, the deployment was nearly accident-free for the Air Force's biggest airlifters. C-17s sustained seven minor mishaps and the C-5s reported four incidents, but no airlifters crashed or sustained more than $1 million in damage. Overall, coalition forces lost 20 manned aircraft during the war, including six helicopters and one A-10A downed by enemy fire.

For the first time, C-17s fulfilled a promised capability to deliver heavy Army units directly into a combat zone. OIF included the "first airland delivery by a C-17 of a combat loaded M1A1 main battle tank direct to immediate combat employment," an AMC official said. "In April, the 362nd Aerospace Expeditionary Group, Rhein-Main [Air Base] Germany, flew five M-1 tanks, five M-2 Bradleys [and] 15 M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers from Ramstein to Bashur, (Iraq)."

In a highly publicized event, C-17s also recorded the first drop of a large Army unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which parachuted into northern Iraq. The conflict also introduced the first low-altitude combat airdrop by a C-17.

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