Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (1968)

The fourth C-5A Galaxy 66-8306 in the 1980s European One color scheme.

A C-5B Galaxy of the USAF’s 436th Military Airlift Wing in the European One ‘lizard’ camouflage scheme worn during the 1980s. The B-model was basically similar to the C-5A, but added the various improvements made during that type’s service life.

[Middle] The Antonov An-124 Ruslan (NATO reporting name: Condor) is a strategic airlift quadjet. It was designed in the 1980s by the Antonov design bureau in the Ukrainian SSR, then part of the Soviet Union (USSR). Until the Boeing 747-8F, the An-124 was, for thirty years, the world’s heaviest gross weight production cargo airplane and second heaviest operating cargo aircraft, behind the one-off Antonov An-225 Mriya (a greatly enlarged design based on the An-124). The An-124 remains the largest military transport aircraft in current service. The lead designer of the An-124 (and the An-225) was Viktor Tolmachev.

[Bottom] The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-225 Мрія, lit. ‘dream’ or ‘inspiration’, NATO reporting name: “Cossack”) is a strategic airlift cargo aircraft that was designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukrainian SSR within the Soviet Union during the 1980s. It is powered by six turbofan engines and is the heaviest aircraft ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes (710 short tons; 630 long tons). It also has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service. The single example built has the Ukrainian civil registration UR-82060. A second airframe with a slightly different configuration was partially built. Its construction was halted in 1994 because of lack of funding and interest, but revived briefly in 2009, bringing it to 60–70% completion. On 30 August 2016, Antonov agreed to complete the second airframe for Airspace Industry Corporation of China (not to be confused with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China) as a prelude to commencing series production.

For many years the world’s biggest military cargo aircraft, the C-5 Galaxy remains the largest and only strategic airlifter in the U.S. Air Force inventory and can carry more cargo farther distances than any other aircraft. Modified to C-5M Super Galaxy standard, the airlifter will remain in service beyond 2040.

Since the C-5 entered operational service in 1970 the airlifter has provided significant support to every major U.S. military operation, including Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. As well as hauling military cargoes, the C-5 has provided essential humanitarian relief during the response to natural disasters around the world. The C-5 can carry 36 standard pallets and 81 troops simultaneously. The Galaxy is also capable of carrying any air-transportable U.S. Army combat equipment, including such bulky items as the 74-ton mobile scissors bridge. It can also carry outsize and oversize cargo across intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances. Thanks to nose and rear cargo doors, ground crews are able to load and off-load the C-5 simultaneously, thereby reducing cargo transfer times.

Development of the future C-5 Galaxy started in 1963 when the then Military Air Transport Service (MATS) began to look at options for a very large strategic cargo aircraft. Initially schemed under the CX-4 designation, the new aircraft was to have a maximum take-off weight of 272,160kg (600,000lb). The project was revised to produce the CX-HLS specification that now involved the ability to carry a payload of 56,700kg (125,000lb) over a distance of 12,875km (8000 miles). After a request for proposals in 1964, submissions from Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed were subjected to further study, before Lockheed’s design was selected for development the following year.

Lockheed began construction of a prototype aircraft in 1966 and this made a first flight in June 1968. The first deliveries to Military Airlift Command (MAC) commenced in June 1970, the first operator being the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Initial plans called for the provision of 115 of the initial-production C-5A model, but the programme was already well over budget and it was decided to restrict the production run to just 81 aircraft, the last of which was delivered in May 1973. The Galaxy saw considerable usage in the final three years of the U.S. conflict in Southeast Asia and thereafter also took part in the resupply of Israel during the October 1973 War in the Middle East.

Once in service, the Galaxy revealed a number of problems, the most serious of which related to the central wing structure that soon proved prone to fatigue. In 1978 Lockheed received a contract to manufacture wings of an almost entirely new design in order to resolve the problem. Two aircraft were trialled with the new wings, before the remaining 77 C-5As were progressively returned to Marietta for refitting, in order to permit the aircraft to complete their originally planned 20,000-hour service life.

In order to meet increasing USAF demand for airlift, production of the C-5 resumed with the improved C-5B model and in March 1989 the last of 50 B-models was added to the 76 C-5As in USAF service. As well as the new wing and other changes introduced to the C-5A in the interim, the C-5B included over 100 system modifications to improve reliability and maintainability.

After a study revealed that 80 per cent of the C-5’s airframe service life was remaining, AMC began a programme of modernization in 1998. The C-5 Avionics Modernization Program oversaw improvements to communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance. The upgrade also added new safety equipment and a new autopilot.

Super Galaxy

Another part of the C-5 modernization effort is the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP). Under RERP, 52 C-5s (including one C-5A, two C-5Cs and four C-5Bs) are scheduled to receive General Electric CF6-80C2 engines by 2017. The new powerplant provides a 22 per cent increase in thrust, a 30 per cent reduction in take-off roll and a 58 per cent faster climb rate. With its new engine and other system upgrades, the RERP-modified C-5s become C-5Ms, known to the current manufacturer Lockheed Martin as the Super Galaxy.

In 2004 and 2011, Congress authorized the retirement of a total of 46 C-5As, followed by an additional 27 retirements that were authorized in 2013. Depending on congressional approval, by 2017 the total C-5 USAF fleet should number 52, all of which will be the latest C-5M versions.

They are stationed at Dover AFB, Delaware; Travis AFB, California; Lackland AFB, Texas; Martinsburg Air National Guard Base, West Virginia and Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachussetts.

General characteristics

    Crew: 7 typical (aircraft commander, pilot, two flight engineers, three loadmasters)

    4 minimum (pilot, copilot, two flight engineers)

    Payload: 281,000 lb (127,460 kg)

    Length: 247 ft 1 in (75.31 m)

    Wingspan: 222 ft 9 in (67.89 m)

    Height: 65 ft 1 in (19.84 m)

    Wing area: 6,200 ft2 (576 m2)

    Empty weight: 380,000 lb (172,371 kg)

    Useful load: 460,000 lb (209,000 kg)

    Loaded weight: 840,000 lb (382,000 kg)

    Max. takeoff weight: 920,000 lb (418,000 kg) ;[N 2]

    Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CF6-80C2 high-bypass turbofan, 51,000 lbf (225 kN) each


    Maximum speed: Mach 0.79 (462 kn, 531 mph, 855 km/h)

    Cruise speed: Mach 0.77 (450 kn, 518 mph, 833 km/h)

    Range: 4,800 nmi, (8890 km) () with a 120,000 lb (54,000 kg) payload. 2,300 nmi with maximum cargo capacity.

    Ferry range: 7,000 nmi (12964 km) () with no cargo on board.

    Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (11,850 m) at 750,000 lb (340,000 kg) gross weight

    Rate of climb: 2,100 ft/min (9.5 m/s)

    Wing loading: 120 lb/ft2 (610 kg/m2)

    Thrust/weight: 0.26

    Takeoff roll: 5,400 ft (1,600 m)

    Landing roll: 3,600 ft (1,100 m)

    Fuel capacity: 51,150 US gal (193,600 L)

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