Military Transport Aircraft

With the global nature of warfare today airlift is fundamental for delivering food, ammunition, vehicles and equipment into conflict zones. On this page you’ll find everything you need to know about the airforces’ transport aircraft and rotorcraft large and small.

The larger transport aircraft emerged in the 1930s and World War II drove their development as the United States fought two wars, in Europe and in the Pacific, and the United Kingdom fought in Europe, North Africa and the Far East. The United States Army and the RAF operated the Douglas C-47 Dakota transport for troops and cargo during World War II; the US Airforce did not exist until September 1947.

Like many of the military transport aircraft used at the time, the C-47 was a version of a civilian airliner. Even today this is true, the Airbus A330 airliner has a military multirole, refuelling, tanker and transport version that is used by a number of airforces including the RAF, the French Armee de l’air and the Republic of Korea Airforce.

The Cold War saw the fixed wing transport and its helicopter equivalent developed to meet the global reach of the superpowers’ confrontation. In the 1950s and 1960s, the RAF flew the Blackburn Beverley C. Mk 1 which at the time was the RAF’s largest aircraft, with a wingspan of 162 feet and powered by four 2,850-hp Bristol Centaurus turboprops.

In the Vietnam war, the helicopter became a major transport asset and the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, also known as the Huey, was the primary troop carrier in the field. Historically the Russians have built the largest transport helicopters. Their Mil Mi-26 is the world’s largest transport helicopter, it can carry 20 metric tonnes of cargo or vehicles and entered service in the early 1980s; a few years after the start of the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan.

Stay up to date with the latest Military Transport Aircraft News

In this section you will be able to read the latest transport aircraft news, whether it is about the in-development Russian Ilyushin IL-112V light troop transport, or the Airbus A400M Grizzly, currently used by the French military. The modern-day transport fixed wing aircraft began in the 1950s when the United States Airforce (USAF) bought the Lockheed Martin C-130, which does not need a paved runway. It can transport troops, provide medical evacuation and vehicle transport, and updated versions are operating today with a large number of militaries.

The USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster entered service in the 1990s for cargo transport with a 77 metric tonne payload capacity more than triple the C-130, but it is the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy that is the largest transport aircraft in the USAF fleet. Entering into service in the 1970s, the Galaxy carries helicopters and ground vehicles. Its current version is the Super Galaxy, C-5M, with a maximum payload of 127 metric tonnes. The last of the 52 C-5s upgraded to this latest type were delivered to the USAF in 2018. Russia’s heaviest transport aircraft, the Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan, entered service in the 1980s, has a 120 metric tonne capacity and still operates today. China began operating its heavy lift aircraft, the Xian Y-20 Kunpeng in 2016.

In the 21st Century the Boeing Bell V-22 Osprey tiltrotor entered service with the US Marine Corps (USMC) as a troop carrier with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability. Smaller aircraft for troop deployment includes the US special forces’ Boeing MH-6 Little Bird helicopter, used for delivering troops into the heart of combat zones. The USMC will be the first to receive the US military’s most capable transport helicopter, which enters service in the next few years, the Sikorsky C-53K King Stallion. It is the successor to the Super Stallion and can carry 12 metric tonnes.

From heavy lift VTOL to tiltrotors and new and old fixed wing strategic long-range transports, all the latest news about these logistics machines can be found on this page.

Airbus delivers masks to Spain to aid COVID-19 crisis efforts

Khalem Chapman

An Airbus A400M has delivered critically needed masks to Spain as part of an effort to combat the COVID-19 virus.

Khalem Chapman

Modification work begins on new “Air Force One”

Khalem Chapman

The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) has announced that the first of two Boeing 747-8s to be modified to VC-25B standard to become a new “Air Force One”, has begun.

Khalem Chapman
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Israel's Workhorse at 50!

Yissachar Ruas

Combat Aircraft Journal reports on the CH-53 Yas’ur, which marked a half-century of service with the Israeli Air Force last October.

Yissachar Ruas

The Nighthawk Returns!

Jamie Hunter

Last February, Combat Aircraft Journal brought you the incredible story of the still-active F-117A Nighthawks that were photographed and filmed flying at low level in the Mojave Desert. Aircraft continued to be seen throughout 2019, but of recent their appearances had dropped off. However, now the F-117 is back!

Jamie Hunter

AC-130Ws demonstrate ASuW role in the Middle East

Khalem Chapman

In a first-of-its-kind joint exercise with the US Navy, Lockheed AC-130W Stinger IIs from the US Air Force have practiced supporting maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf, demonstrating the type’s anti-surface warfare (ASuW) role.

Khalem Chapman

USAF purchases two AT-6C Wolverines

Khalem Chapman

Textron Aviation Defense has announced that the US Air Force (USAF) has now officially purchased two AT-6C Wolverine light attack aircraft.

Khalem Chapman
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The Airborne Connector

Tom Kaminski

A US Air Force aircraft type that had quietly gone about its trade for nearly 15 years came into sharp focus after a crash in Afghanistan. Combat Aircraft Journal examines the role of the E-11A BACN.

Tom Kaminski
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Warthogs of Crow Mountain

Chen Chuanren

As the US Department of Defense looks to prune the A-10C Thunderbolt II fleet, Combat Aircraft Journal highlights the work of the 25th Fighter Squadron ‘Assam Draggins’, the only forward-deployed A-10 unit.

Chen Chuanren

USAF B-2s return to Europe

Khalem Chapman

Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bombers have arrived in Europe as part of a Bomber Task Force deployment.

Khalem Chapman
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High-End in Hawaii

Rob van Disseldorp

Combat Aircraft Journal heads to Hawaii to witness Exercise ‘Sentry Aloha’ as the resident Raptors go up against visiting fighters for valuable dissimilar training.

Rob van Disseldorp

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