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Research Synopsis

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Research Questions

  1. How much of the C-17 fleet is fully mission capable at any time?
  2. How quickly can C-17 aircraft reach Fort Bragg/Pope Field from the many locations they are deployed to worldwide?
  3. How quickly can C-17 aircraft be made ready to depart Fort Bragg/Pope Field, airlifting the Global Response Force?

This report explores C-17 availability and determines how quickly these aircraft and their aircrews can reach Fort Bragg/Pope Field, where the 82nd Airborne Division, a large provider and the highest headquarters of the Global Response Force, operates, from the many locations they are deployed to worldwide. Historical data on C-17 availability and individual aircraft locations over a full year were analyzed to determine how quickly C-17s could be ready to depart Fort Bragg/Pope Field airlifting the Global Response Force. RAND's analysis showed that roughly half of the C-17 fleet (104 airplanes) were fully mission capable (FMC) at any point in time, with the number fluctuating from as low as 68 aircraft to as high as 126 at periods throughout the year of data analyzed. Assuming that aircraft were not diverted from in-progress sorties and that crews were allowed to rest as required, all these FMC aircraft could be ready to redeploy from Fort Bragg/Pope Field within 87 hours of a request for their services with smaller groups available sooner. On average, 1–2 aircraft could be made available within 12 hours, and 35 aircraft could be made available within 24 hours.

Key Findings

On Average, Around 50 Percent of the C-17 Fleet, or 104 Aircraft, Are Fully Mission Capable at Any Time

  • This number dropped to as low as 68 aircraft and rose as high as 126 aircraft in the year of data examined.
  • On average, another 25 percent of the fleet is partially mission capable, but it is unclear whether these aircraft could serve the Global Response Force.

All Fully Mission Capable Aircraft Could Be Ready to Redeploy Within 87 Hours

  • Smaller groups of aircraft could be available sooner.
  • On average, 1–2 aircraft could be made available within 12 hours.
  • About 35 aircraft could be made available within 24 hours.

Recommendations

  • The 82nd Airborne Division/Global Response Force (GRF) should take into consideration realistic expectations of aircraft availability when planning their operations. This includes maintenance availability, time to reach Ft. Bragg/Pope Field and rest the crew, and likelihood of diverting from in-progress missions.
  • If more C-17s are kept near or at Ft. Bragg/Pope Field for their usual activities, it can increase the number of aircraft available to the 82nd Airborne Division/GRF on short notice.
  • It is important to understand in which cases waivers for shortened pilot rest times will be granted, as this can make aircraft available sooner.
  • If some partially mission capable aircraft could be used safely, doing so could significantly increase the number of aircraft available and reduce the time to have a substantial number prepared for 82nd Airborne Division/GRF operations.
  • Real-world throughput of aircraft at Ft. Bragg/Pope Field could be an issue and should be investigated, along with the possibility of queuing aircraft at nearby locations to combat this problem.
  • Effort should be taken to understand whether comparable aircraft, such as the C-5, could be used in lieu of or in combination with the C-17 fleet and whether this would increase immediate aircraft availability.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by US Army Forces Command and conducted by the Force Development and Technology Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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