After an avionics upgrade, a new set of engines and a total of 70 other improvements, legacy C-5A and B models are re-designated as C-5Ms. Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer, invited The Reserve Officer to Marietta to attend the ceremony and climb around the production line.
To date, three system development and demonstration C-5s have gone through the modernization process, one A-model and 2 B-models. These aircraft along with 2 C-17s conducted a series of tests to compare the enhanced capabilities of the C-5Ms, performing with higher than expected results and breaking 42 world records.
Because of the increased performance of their new General-Electric engines in both thrust capacity and fuel consumption, the C-5M has a steeply higher climb rate, greater range and can carry more payload than its legacy. All of those stats cut the time it takes to deliver the same amount of cargo in half, and do so more efficiently, quieter, and with a reduced carbon footprint.
Inside the Air Force reports the Defense Acquisition Board plans to review the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining program Oct. 7 to go into full production.
Current planning has a total of 52 C-5s slated for modernization on a fixed-cost contract, each costing the Air Force $82 million. Modernizing causes a reduced total ownership cost over the life of the aircraft, which are expected to fly until 2040. The program essentially pays for itself and then saves an additional $9 billion, said Lockheed officials.
At this time, the service only plans to modernize its C-5B fleet, retiring 22 C-5As due to capacity issues with the strategic airlift fleet. This will leave 37 A-models required to meet mobility needs still flying, all of which will get an avionics upgrade to comply with regulations.
The Reserve and Guard primarily fly A-models, however there are associate wings that will get the new Super Galaxies as well as the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base.
Lorraine Martin, Lockheed's C-5M program manager, told The Reserve Officer there are discussions to reconsider re-engining the A-model aircraft as well.
LtGen Thomas Owen, Aeronautical Systems Center commander, said, "I think that's a good idea, but we're operating in a very fiscally constrained environment… Air Force leadership as well as Department of Defense leadership will be evaluating options in future years to see whether the dollars are available to modernize more than just the C-5B fleet."
The department would need to plan for such an upgrade in its fiscal year 2014 program objective memorandum to lock in current pricing, primarily because of the lead time the GE-built engines require, said Ms. Martin.
|First Production C-5M takes its first flight Sept. 22|