Boeing C-33

The Boeing C-33 is the US military designation for Boeing 747-400 series intended to augment the C-17 Globemaster III fleet, but the plan was cancelled in favor of purchasing additional C-17s.


The C-33 designation was reserved for the Non-Developmental Airlift Aircraft project for a commercial freighter to supplement the C-17. During 1994 and 1995 the Defense Department engaged in a comprehensive process to refine airlift requirements, analyze various aspects of airlift, and prepare for an airlift fleet mix decision. A Defense Acqusition Board review satisfied congressional direction to conduct a Cost And Operational Effectiveness Analysis, to consider the C-17 and mixes of alternative aircraft, and to preserve intertheater airlift capacity. Initial material solutions considered included: buy a modified Boeing 747-400 NDAA, restart the C-5 production line, extend the C- 141 service life, and continue C- 17 production. The field eventually narrowed to: the Boeing 747-400, the Lockheed-Martin C-5D, and the McDonnell Douglas C- 17.

The NDAA study [The NDAA Report: An Application of Commercial Acquisition (Washington, D.C.: Non-Developmental Airlift Aircraft System Program Office, 1994)] focused on a minimally modified Boeing 747 cargo air-craft. These “minimal” modifications included hardened decks and a flip-up nose and ramp system for ease of straight-in loading versus the side-mounted-cargo-door style loading of the commercial industry. Consequently, the price for the NDAA alternative increased from under $150 to about $200 million per aircraft.41 Nevertheless, after examining several options, the most cost-effective solution was an 86/30 mix of C-17 and NDAA aircraft.42 This mix, however, did not allow for a full strategic brigade airdrop nor was it optimized for tactical airlift requirements and lesser regional contingencies in support of peace enforcement scenarios.