This Airforce C17 Wears The Qatar Airways Livery – Here’s Why

Estimated read time 4 min read


  •  The C-17 aircraft is not operated by Qatar Airways, but by the Qatar Emiri Air Force.
  •  The aircraft’s livery, resembling a commercial airliner, allows it to land at civilian airports with restrictions on military aircraft.
  •  The unique paint scheme raises Qatar’s profile and showcases its participation in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.

Many find it bizarre that Gulf carrier Qatar Airways maintains a Boeing C-17 Globemaster in its fleet, and have taken to social media upon seeing the rather bizarrely painted aircraft. Ever since the 2020 Kuwait Aviation Show, we have had a pretty good idea why the jet is painted as it is.

Nonetheless, those on the internet will still fan the flames of conspiracy about the jet’s true purpose. In this article, we will take a closer look at the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster and explain what exactly it is doing masquerading as a civilian airliner.

It’s not part of Qatar Airways

For starters, the aircraft is not actually operated by flag carrier Qatar Airways, but is in fact operated by the nation’s air force, the Qatar Emiri Air Force. This has since been confirmed by the airline’s financial reporting, as Qatar Airways Group is wholly owned by the State of Qatar.

So, if Qatar Airways doesn’t operate this beast of an aircraft, who does? The answer is the Qatar Emiri Air Force. In fact, the Qatar Emiri Air Force operates eight C-17s according to, not all of which are lucky enough to carry this special livery.

Qatar Air Force C-17

Photo: Steve Lynes | Wikimedia Commons

The others have a more standard dark gray, as is common with most aircraft used for military operations. According to information from manufacturer Boeing, aircraft registration MAB was the Air Force’s second C-17 from the manufacturer and was delivered in 2009.

Why the livery?

So far, we have likely yet to answer your burning question: why exactly is an air force strategic cargolifter painted like a civilian jetliner? The answer is, as would be expected, far more complex than you might assume.

Qatar Air Force C-17

Photo: John Murphy | Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2020, Simple Flying spoke to multiple crew members at the Kuwait Aviation Show. A crew member told us that certain civilian airports around the world (London was used as an example) restrict aircraft that are visibly from the military. Therefore, with this aircraft taking on the livery of a commercial airline, it is allowed to land while other military aircraft may not be permitted.

While this is a pretty authoritative source, we were unable to find any information online to verify this. We also emailed London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to see if they would be willing to confirm that such a policy existed. No response was received from airport authorities.

Some conflicting information about the purpose of the jet’s rather bizarre livery choice does exist online. According to a statement from Qatari Brigadier General Ahmed Al Malki found in Boeing’s 2009 press release, the reason for the livery is as follows:

“This unique C-17 paint scheme, the first of its kind, is intended to build awareness of Qatar’s participation in operations around the world.”

And this makes sense when you read the rest of the press release and what these aircraft do. These C17s are meant to assist with “humanitarian aid, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions”.

In short, the paint job is used to raise Qatar’s profile and project a positive image on the global stage wherever it flies. We would assume this particular aircraft and its flashy livery would not be used in combat operations, unlike the rest of the Qatari C17 fleet.

The bottom line

Despite the lack of a rather intriguing answer to this question, we hope you found our discussion of this jet fascinating. While the aircraft might be fascinating to behold and help promote Qatar’s image, you certainly won’t be catching a flight on this mammoth cargo plane any time soon.

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