As part of RAAF Air Mobility Group and No 86 Wing, 36 Squadron provides an important logistical role for the Royal Australian Air Force. Based at RAAF Base Amberley, 36 Squadron operates the largest transport aircraft of the Australian Defence Force, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.


A41-213 – RAAF Darwin – PB2016

During the 2000’s, the RAAF considered the need to expand its lift capacity beyond what could be provided by the current Lockheed C-130 fleet. The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III was chosen and entered service with 36 Squadron in late 2006.

With a crew of 3 – Pilot, Co-pilot and Loadmaster, a 70.8 tonne cargo capacity, a short 1,064 meter runway performance, plus a range of over 10,000 km, the Globemaster has integrated into the Air Force perfectly, greatly enhancing Australia’s airlift capacity.

C-17A braking with help from its engines reverse thrust

The C-17A has the legs to travel and as the name ‘Globemaster’ suggests, it is perfect for 36 Squadron to support both current and future operational and humanitarian commitments beyond Australia’s shores. From lugging heavy equipment around the country to deploying troops with their combat vehicles to operations and exercises all over the world, the C-17A has demonstrated its versatility by executing a large range of tasks.

RAAF C-17 afternoon landing in Darwin

A41-212 preparing to touch down in the Top End late in the day

Providing a heavy lift capacity not seen before in the RAAF, it can be loaded with a range of military vehicles including the ARH Tiger and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, ASLAV or Bushmaster PMV-M and even the M1A1 Abrams tank employed by the Australian Army.


C-17A Globemaster has a cavernous interior

In a cargo configuration it can carry up to 11 463L Aerial Delivery System pallets down the centre, plus 27 sidewall seats each side. When utilized in the personnel transport role it can carry up to 102 passengers/paratroops and perform parachute drops, or when configured to the aero-medical transport function, up to 36 stretchers. In this particular role the C-17 has been vital in a number of emergency and humanitarian tasks.


One of the four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofans which develop 40,440 lbs thrust each

In 2013, aircraft from 36 Squadron assisted in transporting vital supplies and equipment to both Bundaberg during the Queensland floods, and Hobart, when large areas of Tasmania were devastated by bush-fires.

International disaster relief is one role the C-17A excels at. In 2011 36 Squadron performed airlifts of emergency medical personnel to both Japan after the Tohuku tsunami, and later in 2013, the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan devastated many parts of the country.

C-17 departing Darwin

A41-211 climbing out of Darwin in the early light

More recently the Air Force re-established an air link to Antarctica, the first since halting these operations over 50 years ago. Which aircraft was used? – the C-17A Globemaster III.

Another milestone has been the ability to air-to-air refuel from the RAAF KC-30A, giving the C-17A an extended range, far beyond its current range.


A41-212 on display for the 2016 Pitch Black Open Day – RAAF Base Darwin

In recent weeks the Globemaster has been seen coming and going during the deployment and on-going operations of Pitch Black 2016. This year 36 Squadron has had the opportunity to demonstrate how important the aircraft can be in a major exercise – something not seen at this scale before in Pitch Black exercises. Not only has it been operating from Darwin in a strategic role, the C-17A has also been supporting the Air-Land operations aspect of Pitch Black by carrying out night drops and insertions into the remote airstrip of Nackeroo, located within the Bradshaw Training area.

C-17 landing RAAF Darwin

A41-212 returns from Bradshaw Field Training Area

This year the public were again treated to a static display of the Globemaster at the Open Day. A41-212 was parked with side doors open and ramp down so visitors could see the vast interior, the ramp being a popular spot for photographing younger members of the family.


At nearly 3 m tall, the winglet assists in reducing drag and maximizing wing efficiency

Long after this exercise officially ends, the heavy movers of 36 Squadron will be working long hours loading, transporting and delivering loads across Australia to clear equipment from PB2016.

The C-17A Globemaster III and 36 Squadron will continue to be a critical part of the logistics function within the Air Force’s Air Mobility Group for decades to come.

C-17 RAAF Base Darwin

C-17 A41-212 ready for the next mission

For now, I just look forward to seeing the RAAF C-17’s again in the Top End and finding a few minutes to watch the ‘big girls’ arrive and depart.

I would like to thank the media team at Pitch Black 2016 for allowing the team at Aviation Spotters Online to be apart of the Embedded Media program this year. Without their hard work a great deal of these photos would not have happened!

Sid Mitchell