Global Operational Sustainment: The Aussies and the US Continue the C-17 Cross- Servicing Agreement


The RAAF recently announced their continuation of the cross-servicing agreement between USAF C-17s and Aussies C-17s.

According to a recent article published by the RAAF:

The United States and Australia have agreed to a cross-servicing arrangement for the repair and maintenance of C-17A Globemasters.

The establishment of an Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Service – Implementing Arrangement (ARMS-IA) will further increase interoperability between both nation’s C-17A workforces.

This can range from contingency maintenance when C-17As are away from home base on a task, through to exercises or operations when C-17A workforces are deployed together.

Brigadier General (BRIG GEN) Steve Bleymaier, United States Air Force (USAF) Air Mobility Command Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, said partnerships such as this were vital for air mobility.

“Mobility airmen are always ready to deliver strength and hope anywhere in the world at any time,” BRIG GEN Bleymaier said.

“We are most successful when we work with valued partners like our Australian counterparts.

Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Steve Roberton, Air Commander Australia, said the arrangement would provide much-needed flexibility for the USAF and RAAF.

“Our C-17A workforce regularly shares a tarmac with American C-17As, whether we are on exercise together at home, or deployed across the globe,” AVM Roberton said.

“Whilst a USAF C-17A is no different from a RAAF C-17A, our air forces have different maintenance workforce structures, which is what makes an arrangement like this essential.

“By making it easier to help one another, this arrangement provides flexibility and mission assuredness for USAF and RAAF C-17A missions.”

The signing of this arrangement follows C-17A maintenance integration activities conducted in 2017 under the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program.

This involved USAF C-17A technicians conducting maintenance activities with their RAAF counterparts.

In the Asia Pacific, RAAF and USAF C-17A crews have supported relief operations in the Philippines and Japan, as well as worked together on Exercises Mobility Guardian and Talisman Sabre.

Both nation’s C-17As are essential to supporting deployed operations, including those in the Middle East.

“This arrangement focuses on the C-17A workforce, but will ultimately benefit the organisations deployed across the globe who rely on a C-17A to sustain them,” AVM Roberton said.

“In the Asia-Pacific, it makes sense for us to capitalise on our existing close relationship, pool resources when possible, and increase our C-17A capability even further.

“I look forward to similar EAC cooperation and ARMS arrangements being conducted for other aircraft common to Australia and the United States.”

In 2018, C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance interoperability activities were conducted as part of EAC, and an implementing arrangement for cross servicing for C-130J is underway.

Future maintenance integration activities are projected for the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

We have focused on the importance of this global sustainment approach for some time, and have argued that its expansion to programs like F-35 and P-8 is a critical part of being able to prevail in the context of the global shift from the Middle Eastern land wars to full spectrum crisis management.

For example, earlier this year, we published this article, which reached back to interviews conducted in the Pacific a few years ago as well:

As new aircraft enter the combat fleet, there is a clear opportunity to shape new approaches to sustainment for global operations.

This is especially true if the aircraft in question is bought and operated by allies as well as US forces.’

The core promise of the F-35 global enterprise rests on this strategic opportunity.

Fortunately, we have already seen the emergence of the approach with legacy systems, which can be built on as the new software-upgradeable aircraft enter the force.

A good case in point is the C-17.

Allies are not just customers but participants in innovation.

A case in point are the Aussies and their operation of the C-17.

A recent article published on the Australian Ministry of Defence website published on January 26, 2019 provides a look at a case where an Aussie innovated to the benefit not just of Australia but to the entire C-17 operating fleet.

Soon after posting into No. 36 Squadron, Corporal Kelvin Green noticed a problem with the C-17A Globemaster’s paint.

“I look at every aircraft in detail – I can spot a repair and can tell if paint is not going to last,” he said.

Corporal Green noticed paint was delaminating about three months after returning from a full repaint in the United States, instead of lasting five to seven years.

When he realised this was causing an increasing workload, Corporal Green wrote a defect report including how to rectify the problem.

Boeing sent a team of scientists and engineers to inspect the aircraft and test Corporal Green’s theories.

“It turns out I was correct,” he said. 

“They took their findings back and made significant changes.”

No. 86 Wing sent Corporal Green to the United States to inspect the first Royal Australian Air Force C-17A painted after the changes. 

“It was great to see my report on display for all Boeing’s aircraft surface finishers to see,” he said.

For his intervention, Corporal Green received a Conspicuous Service Medal in this year’s Australia Day Honours List.

Corporal Green said support and recognition from his chain of command made this possible.

“It’s always a battle convincing people that paint should be a priority as it does affect the aircraft life,” he said.

Corporal Green’s paint knowledge resulted in improved availability and reduced costs over the life of all C-17As.

The citation said his “extraordinary” vigilance and professionalism had a positive impact on the C-17A fleet worldwide.

“To actually receive it is unbelievable; it has still not quite sunk in,” Corporal Green said.

“For my mustering, such a small mustering; it’s an absolute honour.”

Because the C-17 is supported by a global sustainment contract, cross-learning is facilitated as well.

In this video insert from an interview conducted at PACAF at Hickam AFB on February 24, 2014, Jim Silva, Deputy Director, Logistics (A4D), discusses the parts sharing arrangement between the US and the Aussies with regard to the C-17.