The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 is a prototype four-engine short take-off and landing (STOL) tactical transport. It was McDonnell Douglas‘ entrant into the United States Air Force‘s Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) competition to replace the Lockheed C-130 Hercules as the USAF’s standard STOL tactical transport. In the end, neither the YC-15 nor the Boeing YC-14 was ordered into production, although the YC-15’s basic design would be used to form the successful McDonnell Douglas (later Boeing) C-17 Globemaster III.
In 1968, the USAF started work on a series of prototype proposals, which would lead to both the AMST project and the Light Weight Fighter. The official Request for proposal (RFP) was issued in January 1972, asking for operations into a 2,000-foot (610 m) semi-prepared field with a 27,000-pound (12,000 kg) payload and a 400-nautical-mile (460 mi; 740 km) mission radius. For comparison, the C-130 of that era required about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) for this load. Proposals were submitted by Bell, Boeing, Fairchild, McDonnell Douglas and the Lockheed/North American Rockwell team at this stage of the competition. On 10 November 1972, the two top bids (from Boeing and McDonnell Douglas) were selected. The companies were awarded development contracts for two prototypes each. McDonnell Douglas’ prototype was designated YC-15
Two YC-15s were built, one with a wingspan of 110 feet (34 m) (#72-1876) and one of 132 feet (40 m) (#72-1875). Both were 124 feet (38 m) long and powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT8D-17 engines, each with 15,500 pounds-force (69,000 N) of thrust.
The first flight was on 26 August 1975. The second prototype followed in December. They were tested for some time at McDonnell Douglas as the Boeing entry was not ready until almost a year later. In November 1976, both designs were transferred to Edwards Air Force Base for head-to-head testing, including lifting heavy loads like tanks and artillery from dirt airfields at Graham Ranch, off the end of Runway 22.
An air force, also known in some countries as an aerospace force or air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare.