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Lockheed C-5A/B Galaxy

posted by Jiri Wagner

The C-5 Galaxy is a heavy-cargo transport designed to provide massive strategic airlift, for deployment and supply of combat and support forces. The C-5 can carry unusually large and heavy cargo for intercontinental ranges at jet speeds. The plane can take off and land in relatively short distances and taxi on substandard surfaces during emergency operations.

The C-5 and the smaller C-141B Starlifter are strategic airlift partners. Together they carry fully equipped, combat-ready troops to any area in the world on short notice and provide full field support necessary to maintain a fighting force. Using the front and rear cargo openings, the Galaxy can be loaded and off-loaded at the same time. Both nose and rear doors open the full width and height of the cargo compartment, allowing drive-through loading and unloading of wheeled and tracked vehicles, and faster, easier loading of bulky equipment. A "kneeling" landing gear system lowers the aircraft's cargo floor to truck-bed height. The entire cargo floor has a roller system for rapid handling of palletized equipment. Thirty-six fully loaded pallets can be loaded aboard in about 90 minutes. The Galaxy's weight is distributed on its high flotation landing gear, which has 28 wheels. The landing gear system can raise each set of wheels individually for simplified tire changes or brake maintenance. An automatic trouble-shooting system constantly monitors more than 800 test points in the various subsystems of the C-5. The Malfunction Detection Analysis and Recording System uses a digital computer to identify malfunctions in replaceable units. Failure and trend information is recorded on magnetic tape for analysis. Four turbofan engines mounted on pylons under the wings power the C-5. Each engine pod is nearly 27 feet (8.2 meters) long, weighs 7,900 pounds (3,555 kilograms) and has an air intake diameter of more than 8 1/2 feet (2.6 meters).

The Galaxy has 12 integral wing tanks with a capacity of 51,150 gallons (194,370 liters) of fuel - enough to fill 6 1/2 regular-size railroad tank cars. The fuel weighs 322,500 pounds (145,125 kilograms) and permits the C-5, carrying a 204,904-pound (92,207-kilogram) payload, to fly 2,150 nautical miles (3,440 kilometers), off-load, and fly another 500 miles (800 kilometers) without aerial refueling. Except for emergencies or unusual circumstances, the C-5 does not carry troops in the lower-deck cargo compartment; but 73 seats are available in the rear compartment of the upper deck for personnel and operators of equipment being airlifted. The C-5 has carried special loads, such as large missiles, that would require extra time, manpower and dollars to transport via ship, rail or flatbed truck. The forward upper deck accommodates a crew of six, a relief crew of seven, and eight mail or message couriers. The flight deck has work stations for the pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and two loadmasters.

The upper deck's forward and rear compartments have galleys for food preparation, as well as lavatories. The Galaxy has sophisticated communications equipment and a triple inertial navigation system, making it nearly self-sufficient. It can operate without using ground-based navigational aids. The electrical system has four engine-driven generators, each powerful enough to supply the aircraft sufficient electricity. Each of the two main landing gear pods carries an auxiliary power unit to supply electric and pneumatic power for engine starts and ground air conditioning, heating, cooling and ventilation. Air turbine motors in the landing gear pods also can power the hydraulic systems and the main landing gear kneeling motors.

The Galaxy is one of the world's largest aircraft. It is almost as long as a football field and as high as a six-story building and has a cargo compartment about the size of an eight-lane bowling alley. The C-5 is the only aircraft that can transport any of the Army's combat equipment, including the 74-ton (66,600-kilogram) mobile scissors bridge, tanks and helicopters. The first C-5A was delivered to the Transitional Training Unit at Altus AFB, Okla., in December 1969. The first operational C-5s were delivered to the 437th Military Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, S.C., in June 1970. In December 1984, the 433rd Tactical Airlift Wing (now the 433rd Military Airlift Wing) at Kelly AFB, Texas, became the first Air Force Reserve wing equipped with C-5 Galaxies. The first C-5B incorporating significant improvements such as strengthened wings and updated avionics was delivered to Altus Air Force Base in January 1986.

C-5 production concluded with delivery of the last "B" model aircraft in April 1989. The C-5, with its massive payload capability, has opened unprecedented dimensions of strategic airlift in support of national defense. For 20 years it has been involved in many historic airlift missions, and is invaluable to the Air Force mission and humanitarian efforts. For example, in December 1988, four C-5s participated in the delivery of more than 885,000 pounds (398,250 kilograms) of earthquake relief supplies to the then-Soviet Republic of Armenia. The C-5 also assisted with an Alaskan oil spill cleanup in March 1989, transporting nearly 2 million pounds (900,000 kilograms) of equipment to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. The most dramatic display of the Galaxy's capability and value was during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The C-5, along with other Air Force transport aircraft, airlifted almost a half-million passengers and more than 577,000 tons (519,300 metric tons) of cargo. This included 15 air-transportable hospitals and the more than 5,000 medical personnel to run them, and more than 211 tons (189.9 metric tons) of mail to and from the men and women in the Middle East - each day.

General characteristics

Primary function Massive strategic airlift
Contractor Lockheed-Georgia Co.
Power plant Four General Electric TF39-GE-1C turbofan engines
Thrust 4x 43,013 lb 4x 191.33 kN
Length 247 ft 10 in 75.54 m
Height at tail 65 ft 1 in 19.85 m
Max. takeoff weight 837,000 lb 379,657 kg
Takeoff distance fully loaded 12,200 ft 3,720 m 
Landing distance 4,900 ft 1,494 m
Wingspan 222 ft 9 in 67.88 m
Wingarea 6,200 sq ft 575.98 sq m
Cargo compartment height 13 ft 6 in 4.1 m
width 19 ft 5.76 m
Range 5,940 miles 9,560 km
Ceiling 35,745 ft 10,895 m
Max. speed 564 mph 908 km/h
Initial climb rate 28.9 ft/s 8,8 m/s
Max. load 291,000 lb 130,950 kg
Unit cost C-5A - $163.4 million C-5B - 167.7 million
Crew Six (pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers, two loadmasters)
Date deployed December 1969 (for training); June 1970 (operational); December 1984 (to Reserve).
Inventory Active-force, 70; ANG, 11; Reserve, 28

Press Releases

Lockheed Martin receives initial  $23 million contract to modernize the C-5 Galaxy / 2007-05-03


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