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

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  • 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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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.

Thomas Pallini/Insider

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