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AMC accepted its first C-17 Globemaster III at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, on June 14, 1993, and declared initial operational capability on January 17, 1995. AMC’s second C-17 wing was established at McChord AFB, Washington, in July 1999. The versatile C-17, America’s future core military airlifter, is a key player in the Air Force’s post-Cold War strategy of “global reach, global power”.

The C-17 replaced the C-141 Starlifter fleet inherited from Military Airlift Command (MAC). C-141s were retired as C-17s were accepted into the inventory. First seeing operational service in 1965 under the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), the last Starlifters were retired in the early 2000s. By 2004, the C-141 left AMC service with active duty USAF units, being confined to Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units for the remainder of its operational service life. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, the C-141s assigned to the 445 AW participated in missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly for the medical evacuation of wounded service members. The last eight C-141s were officially retired in 2006.

The C-5 Galaxy airlifter, also inherited from MAC, is being modernized and upgraded into the C-5M Super Galaxy model. It is planned to modernize all C-5Bs and C-5Cs and many of the C-5As to the C-5M standard. The first C-5M conversion was completed on May 16, 2006, and performed its first flight on June 19, 2006. It is estimated that the modifications will extend the service life of the C-5 to about 2040.

Most legacy models of the C-130 Hercules (e.g., C-130E, C-130H, C-130H2) in AMC, AFRC and ANG units will eventually be replaced by the C-130J Super Hercules. The C-130 family has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history and has served in every branch of the U.S. armed forces other than the U.S. Army. During more than 50 years of service, the C-130 has participated in military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. It is likely that future improvements to the C-130 will mean the design will be in service into the foreseeable future.

The upgrades of the inherited Strategic Air Command KC-135 Stratotanker to E, R, RT and T models have extended their lifetimes to 36,000 (E) and 39,000 flying hours (R, RT and T), respectively. The last KC-135E was retired in 2009 and all remaining operational USAF KC-135 aircraft are of the KC-135R, KC-135RT or KC-135T series. Acquired by SAC in the late 1950s, according to the Air Force, only a few KC-135s would reach these limits before 2040; but at that time, some of the aircraft would be about 80 years old. The Air Force estimates that their current fleet of KC-135s have between 12,000 and 14,000 flying hours on them…only 33 percent of the lifetime flying hour limit…and none will meet the limit until 2040. Therefore, the USAF has decided to replace the KC-135 fleet. However, since there were originally over 500 KC-135s with the since-retired KC-135E included, these aircraft will be replaced gradually, with the first batch of about 100 aircraft to be replaced in the current buy. The effort to replace the KC-135 has been marked by intense controversy.