See inside a $340 million Boeing military transport jet that keeps American troops and supplies moving around the world


The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a workhorse transport and cargo plane of the US Air Force.
As many as 102 troops can be flown anywhere in the world on the aircraft.
More than 800 Afghan refugees were transported to safety on the aircraft in just one flight.

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III should be instantly recognizable to any US service member who has deployed to an overseas combat zone in the past two decades.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow in 2021. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Since its first delivery to the Air Force at Joint Base Charleston in 1993, Boeing’s flagship military aircraft has served the US military through two wars and aided in countless conflicts and missions.

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Air Mobility Command primarily operates the US military’s fleet of more than 200 C-17 aircraft, which have been delivered over the past three decades. A veritable jack of all trades, the aircraft acts as a cargo plane, a troop transport, and even a flying hospital.

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Most recently, though, the US military relied upon the C-17 to safely evacuate military personnel, government contractors, and refugees from Afghanistan at the end of the war there.

Air Force loadmasters and pilots load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 24. Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/U.S. Air Force via AP

The United Arab Emirates air force showed off one of its Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs at the Dubai Airshow in November, which is comparable to what the US Air Force flies. Here’s what it’s like inside.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow in 2021. Thomas Pallini/Insider

When it comes to four-engine workhorse aircraft, commercial aviation has the Boeing 747, and military aviation has the C-17. Nations around the world, including the UK, Qatar, UAE, Canada, India, Australia, and Kuwait, have chosen the C-17 to help power their militaries.

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The C-17 stands at 174 feet long and 55 feet and 1 inch tall, with an unmistakable look.

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Four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines power the aircraft and offer 40,440 pounds of thrust.

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The engines are so powerful that they are used to slow the plane during steep tactical descents, something which a commercial airliner would never dream of doing.

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All cargo is loaded through the C-17’s rear cargo door, which comes equipped with a ramp for easy loading and offloading.

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Helicopters, vehicles, and even a 69-ton M1 Abrams tank can be transported in the back of a C-17, thanks to a maximum payload capacity of 170,900 pounds.

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The cargo compartment spans 88 feet, with a width of 18 feet and a height of 12 feet and 4 inches, enough space for 102 troops, 36 medical litters, and 54 ambulatory patients.

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Unlike a passenger airliner or even a traditional cargo freighter, there’s very little that’s aesthetically pleasing about the cargo hold of a C-17.

Wiring and cabling run along the cabin walls and almost give the appearance that the aircraft is unfinished.


As with any military aircraft, there are very few luxuries, and interior cabin fittings take a back seat to utility and performance.

Passenger seats can be found along the side walls of the aircraft and are about as basic as they can get.


Extra seats can be installed throughout the aircraft depending on the mission.

When the plane is flying important passengers such as dignitaries, plush leather recliner seats can be installed in the cabin. They’re similar to what is found in the premium economy class cabin of an international airline.

Slightly more basic airline-style seats can also be installed in rows of five across.

They are undoubtedly an improvement from the bare-bones seats found along the cabin wall.

But these seats are a far cry from those found on any modern airline.

Passengers may board through either the cargo door or the forward door that comes with a built-in set of stairs.

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But not all passengers enter and exit through the same door. Paratroopers will often jump from the plane using one of two side doors, just as the US military has been doing since the days of the Douglas C-47 Dakota.

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Paratroopers will line up in a single file and jump out of the plane one by one as their parachute cords are automatically pulled by a static line inside the aircraft.

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The C-17 is also capable of medical evacuations, with litters placed in the cargo compartment.

The US Air Force staffs a medical-evacuation flight with two nurses and three medical technicians.

Litters can be stacked on top of each other up to three high.

The US military also proved in August that the C-17 was more than capable of flying more than 102 passengers. At the end of the war in Afghanistan, one C-17 transported 823 refugees out of Kabul to safety.

On August 31, the last US military aircraft, including C-17s, flew from Kabul to Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, which marked the end of the 20-year war.

Evacuees wait to board a C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 23. US Marine Corps/Sgt. Isaiah Campbell

The C-17’s cockpit is on the upper level of the aircraft, above the cargo compartment.


The US Air Force prides itself on using commercially available “off the shelf” equipment on the C-17. The cockpit is as similarly unaesthetic as the cargo compartment.


Pilots use a control-stick grip that’s situated between their legs and similar to those found in helicopters and fighter jets to fly the airplane, rather than a traditional yoke.

A heads-up display, also similar to those found in fighter jets, allows pilots to keep their eyes forward, which comes in handy during tactical approaches and other intense maneuvers.

The C-17 can fly as high as 45,000 feet and doesn’t need to land for fuel thanks to its aerial-refueling capability.


Only two pilots are required in the cockpit to fly the Globemaster, while a loadmaster is focused on any cargo or passengers in the back of the plane.


The loadmaster’s office is on the lower floor of the C-17, directly below the cockpit.


Just like on any cargo plane, the loadmaster is responsible for ensuring that aircraft are properly loaded and that the weight and balance of the aircraft on a given mission are within its capabilities.

And while there may not be many luxuries on the aircraft, there’s is an airline-style galley complete with a coffee maker.

US Air Force C-17s traverse the globe on a daily basis as the US maintains its global military presence.

The C-17 has proved its capabilities time and time again and is the military’s go-to for a variety of missions.

Air Mobility Command keeps the aircraft at military bases across the US including Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, Travis Air Force Base in California, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow 2021. Thomas Pallini/Insider

And even during peacetime, to paraphrase one service member, there’s always a job for Air Mobility Command.