AF hopes to shrink airlift fleet

AF hopes to shrink airlift fleet

The Air Force would like Congress to reduce the number of airlifters it’s required to keep flying, according to a report last week in the Warner-Robbins Patriot. Here’s how the newspaper broke it down:

In his prepared remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, said the C-5A retirements would “improve aircraft availability by removing maintenance intensive jets from the fleet and allow us to focus our critical maintenance, aerial port and aircrew personnel and resources on a right-sized fleet.”

McNabb said the most recent Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 completed in February justifies repeal of the congressionally mandated 316 aircraft minimum.

“The strategic airlift aircraft reduction will allow the Air Force to retire an additional 15 C-5As and provide a substantial savings by freeing up over $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars across the five-year defense plan,” he told the committee.

The Air Force loves its M-variant C-5s — like this one — and it would keep those. The Patriot reports that if Congress agreed, the reduction would leave the Air Force with 27 C-5As, 52 C-5Ms and 222 C-17s.


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One first has to know the diff between a C-5A and “newer” C-5B. Guess which one is better to refurb? #military

Why not just get rid of the USAF lift and turn it over to UPS or FEDEX. At least they would be on time. In 30 years of experiencing and watching these folks they were never on time. It is not the folks who fly them but the system.

Tell that to all of the troops on the ground in Afghanistan that my crews deliver supplies to every day. I’m on my fourth deployment with airlifters and they are the best damn aircrew you will ever meet. We get the job done everyday. With no due respect, go F*ck yourself.

I think you have a good basis here, although I’m gonna put my own twist. Why can’t we buy a bunch of civilian cargo planes to do most of the lifting? I’m sure a bunch of 767/777 or whatever would be more efficient than using strategic airlifters. Most cargo goes to Manas or Kuwait anyway before going into theater, so why not just have the civil aircraft fly them there and switch it over to the military cargo planes to fly them in theater.

Seems like so much money would be saved on maintenance, fuel, etc. My $.02

You realize that those aircraft would still need MX and fuel and even if leased or chartered it would still cost way more money than having USAF crews work on USAF jet, right? Not to mention the fact that civillian 767/777 don’t have in-flight refueling capability which would create delays by forcing them to stop way more frequently than military aircraft. Nice try though.

I think the AF doesn’t have a justifiable basis for reducing it airlift fleet and just comes off as the AF wanting to focus more on combat aircraft, in the same sort of way the Army neglected basic transport trucks for the longest time. On the other hand the requirement for “316 aircraft” seems arbitrary and congress should come up with a better metric for capabilities, such as the transportable tonnage as in how many tons can be put in the air at a given time… then the system would at least incentivies efficiency gains.

I do think VTGunner has a point though. Commercial air carriers have been much more quick to make moves that take advantage of the efficiency gains that save money. Even if modified versions of those planes were used the commonality between the military and commercial planes would bring down maintainance and parts costs.

like all US ARMY? cut AND CUT

Good MOrning Folks,

One problem that everyone seems to have missed here is the capacity to do an airborne assault. The recent Haiti drop demonstrated that the USAF can’t do a battalion size combat drop, and it can’t sustain a battalion in a “combat environment” for 72 hours.

I would think with our shift to global strike that the USAF should be mandated by Congress to have a BCT single drop capacity for the Army ready to go ay all times, and the air lift to sustain a BCT for at least 72 hours of combat. As it is right now the US Army is having to lease planes and crews from the Russian Air Force to sustain our troops in Afghanistan, that is a national disgrace.

The mission of the AF is to give the ground pounders a ride to war and then bring in the bullets and groceries, the current USAF can not do this mission.

I guess the question has come down to why do we need an Air Force. They don’t want to bring the uber expensive planes below 15,00 feet where the war is for ground support. The say they are providing air superiority against the enemy, but the enemy has no aircraft, now they are say don’t call on us for air transport it not our job. I waiting for someone to tell me that something worth doing or can’t be done by the Army or Navy better that is an Air Force mission.

Other then the giving out lots of rank to officers who don’t fight or even want to get near the fight I can’t see any need for the USAF. I guess they could deliver the mail.

Byron Skinner

Personally I think we should upgrade any C-5As with enough life left in the airframe to full C-5M standard.

I’m not saying get rid of all the military lifters. I’m saying the air force should buy a bunch of cargo planes (instead of dolling out billions of dollars in wasteful leases) that have commonality with the civilian market. This keeps costs down on spares and other maintenance. Plus now you’ll have all those flying hours taken off of the military airlifters, which in turn extend their own service lives.

So when was the last time anyone saw an M-1, or Stryker be loaded on to a commerical cargo aircraft? I don’t think that will be happening, hence the need for strategic airlift aircraft specific to the military.

More stupidity from the USAF. They never have too much airlift. Military airlifters are built to carry much denser cargo than a civilian airplane will carry. That’s why it makes no sense to use civilian aircraft in that role. Even as tall as low wing airplane landing gears are, they still aren’t tall enoug to keep those engines from sucking dust and dirt up from an airstrip carved out of dirt and stone.

The real question is why the USAF doesn’t buy more airlifters. They are the utilitarian “truck” of airplanes. The fact is, airlifters can drop bombs, many variants do different kinds of electronic warfare, they perform great as ground attack vehicles, tankers, command and control platforms. There is almost no job that is done with an airplane that is not done with a airlifter.

Hell, this airplane design came from a request by the special forces command for an amphibious airlifter to hault special forces: http://​www​.aerospaceweb​.org/​q​u​e​s​t​i​o​n​/​p​l​a​n​e​s​/​c​s​a/c… . What the USAF really needs next is a reduced signature tactical airlift aircraft. They could do any job short of making it an air-to-air fighter from that one platform.

A small number of 777-200LRs would be useful for the USAF. Not all transport from the U.S. to a foreign logistics hub is roll-on, roll off. With reserves the LR tops out at 18 hours of flying time. For a small percentage of missions, a small percentage of this kind of aircraft for USAF airlift would lower the use of air-to-air refueling assets and let C-17s and C-5s be used for what they are best at.

As I’ve said before, I’ve lost complete confidence in the Air Force’s Pentagon leadership to make logical, rational decisions concerning the future of the service: ABU, CSAR-X, Tanker-X, F-22, F-35, nuclear leadership, etc, etc.

The B’s had improved avionics, stouter wings, and more powerful and efficient engines. Only fifty were built.

Absolutely makes sense. Yes we have a SSGT with an attitude speaking and not knowing the overall system the way many of us do. Am I happy they get supplies downrange — sure. His mouth shows lack of knowledge as well as common sense in public forum. Unfortunately he doesn’t see or undersstand the big picture. I can remember an immediate contingency that the Navy had to respond to and the first issue was can the USAF provide the lift — well “we need 5 days notice”. Called United Airlines — “What time do you want us at your ramp”. And their planes carried the load. BUT the biggest issue was the cost. It was much, much cheaper like 1/2 half and without the hassle. Two crews so no crew day crap to put up with. SSgt knows not what he speaks of. It is all about productivity!!!!. Lets see the new 777 / 747B with a full maxed out load can fly from down range non stop anywhere in the US. No expensive tanker to worry about. No fuel needed.

Why do you think the Navy bought our own lift and put them in the reserves. USAF couldn’t provide the lift when needed in part due to their scheduling issues. That is where a Fedex or UPS comes in.. They will be on time and schedule because their bottom line demands it. And not leave troops sit all around the world ( yes downrange) till they get organized. Believe one of the last loads out of Afghan — the troops had to sit two days there and an other few days at an other destination before getting home.

It would also do away with the old contact birds flying our troops that should have been retired years ago. The are expensive to fly and the rest well.….…

My proposal is to equip the commercials with heavy aircraft to do the oversized lift to theater. The Boeing 777 is the most efficient freight carriers in the world — ask the airlines. Half the civil fleet is bought with federal money to be used by the govt when needed. Lets use them and not park them in AZ

I just got back from Afghanistan and was partly responsible for moving the entire brigade’s cargo set back home (a few hundred containers and vehicles). There is a major difference between a C-5 and a C-17 when it comes to what and how much can be hauled which shot us in the foot when a C-5 had a breakdown (often) and we had to switch to multiple C-17s. As the end user of the Air Force’s transport capability, I can tell you there’s never enough aircraft. VTGunner, how many civilian cargo planes are there that can handle at least 30 tons of cargo and switch between containers, vehicles, and passengers at the drop of a hat?

Speaking from the Army side, I can say we’ve gotten pretty good at increasing demand faster than the Air Force can increase throughput. When the DoD decided on X number of helicopters and fixed-wing planes in the inventory, they didn’t count on sustaining a third of the deployable force in a remote field environment indefinitely. I’m not in the bean-counting loop, but I imagine it made sense to contract (multiple nations) to airdrop supplies rather than beat expensive AF planes to death over the course of the last few years. If the entirety of TRANSCOM wasn’t tied up sustaining Afghanistan, they could probably afford enough aircraft to do a battalion-sized airborne operation.

And because we rotate entire brigades and their equipment, dozens of aircraft are tied up rotating that cargo several times a year. Logistically, it would be a lot easier if we dumped the troops and equipment once and spent the rest of the war just flying in food and batteries, but that’s not what we’re doing. Supply will never exceed demand in this subject. If the Army coughed up another aviation brigade (which it’s building) or the AF coughed up another squadron of C-17s, the ground pounders would find a mission for them tomorrow and still ask for more.

They can drop things like MOABs but not quite the same payloads as actual bomber, unless we are talking about some serious modifications.

Still, as the Army would argue, there is always room for more airlift capability. It is something you can never have enough of.

I would love to see a LO transport and indeed such designs have been studied over the years. Yet there is only so much money to go around and a LO transport falls low on the list of priorities it seems.

You mean like maybe we should have a CRAF program? So we could leverage civilian aircraft when we need it. Thats a great idea, why didn’t those idiots in the Pentagon think of that!

Whoa whoa whoa.…slow your roll homie. I don’t know the whole system? I’m constantly involved with the planning of airlift missions from TACC to the actual pilots, every day. I know more about the “system” than you could ever hope to. I still stand by my earlier statemements, it would be way more costly to fly a contracted commercial aircraft than one of our gray tails. Have you even seen the latest mission capable rate of a C-17? Hovering around 97%. It is a proven, capable aircraft that can fly into places your beloved 777 wouldn’t dare to. C-5s, well, admittedly those are much lower, but are used way less so it is a moot point.

Wow…I can’t believe you just wrote that. You are wrong on so many levels it is sickening. First of all, Haiti was not a combat drop, second it wasn’t a personnel airdrop and third we did get the job done. I know this because some very close friends were doing those drops in C-17s.

Next in your stream of bullshit, we can and have dropped BCTs in recent history, say invasion of Iraq in ’03. You know why we don’t do it now? There is no need to!

As for the leasing Russian Air Force crews and aircraft, not a single Russian Air Force jet or aircrew has flown US supplies into the AOR. We do lease out AN-124 from the Volga-Dnepr airline, but those are not owned nor operated by the Russian Air Force.

The USAF gets the troops to war every day, brings them the supplies they need, and gets them back out of the fight, whether at the end of their tour, on an air evac mission to Germany, or in a flag-draped coffin so they can be buried with the respect they deserve.

In conclusion, do some research and shut the hell up. We’re all sick of your constant false bullshit.

You’re an idiot. I never suggested getting rid of all of our airlifters, only supplementing them with “civilian” cargo planes to do most of the normal day to day operations i.e. food delivery, mail, troop movements, office supplies, etc. Obviously moving a tank will require a mil airlifter. And yes, “civilian” aircraft can switch between cargo and passengers just like the C-17’s can, they would use the same roller system thats in place now

From studies I’ve worked on, it is not that big a deal to put a set of bomb doors in the belly of a cargo airplane and let it drop bombs like an actual bomber. The main thing that stops it is the organizational structure of the USAF that puts a wall of separation between bombers and other aircraft. It’s purely a bureaucratic division of functions. It has nothing to do with technical issues.

I’m not saying they make great bombers, but they can do the job adequately enough. Certainly if we had a reduced or low signature cargo airplane available, it would be worth designing it with a structural arrangement that would allow a couple doors in the floor.

A tanker version of such a cargo airplane would be a huge boon to the operation of stealth aircraft. It would certainly make the F-22 much more useful as it could spend more time close to the fight.

Speaking (typing) as an outsider it actually seems pretty clear:

The Air Force IS planning to use civilian contractors to move more of our military cargo. You reduce your budget for cargo lift so that you can put it into more combat aircraft and then when the Army screams for more lift you simply tell the Army to pound sand or buy lift on the commercial market. It’s effectively been happening for years — I know that several training missions I was to go on years ago got canceled/re-directed because the Air Force decided that they would no longer support the mission — and we didn’t have the funds to buy the lift on the civilian market.

Consider that at a time when we have high demand for airlift capability the USAF is pushing to reduce their total lift capacity? This although there is no decrease in demand. While at the same time we are upgrading our in-flight refueling (which supports combat aircraft).

Understand, I’m not trying to claim that the USAF is doing anything wrong at all. There is a reasonable logic that says that there is a core of airlift missions which can/do/will require the unique capabilities of military airlift and the remainder of missions can and should be contracted out.

Where the argument should be is on the details of the mix of military and civilian airlift used for military missions. I, personally, think they need more rather than less uniquely military airlift but I am also willing to admit that I don’t have enough information to be certain on that.

And no, I’m not at all certain that our military airlift is run efficiently. But if it isn’t — it probably never will be and thus really doesn’t go to the core argument I’m making which is that the USAF has decided that we should rely more on civilian airlift.

To Gunner / TMB. 30 tons is a piece of cake for 777 and new 747 freighter ( which was tested the other day to a million pounds of airplane and freight). Airbus makes freighters as well. They are built for freight operation with the ability to switch configuration darn near immediately. Or a combination of both. The C17 is a good airplane by most measures. It is built for the purpose it serves but hauling general freight from Dover to Europe isn’t right. There just are not enough or they are being used for purposes of moving general freight. — not the best use of this asset.

It comes down to the USAF mindset. They do want this new bomber and will do anything to get it.

Good Morning Folks,

Usually I don’t bother to comment on other posters, but it appears that another shortfall of the USAF is recruiting people who can read.

Tho USAF SSgt. It took the USAF 72 hours to get the 73 Cav. of the 82ed. Airborne Division on the ground in Haiti. The 73 Cav. is a battalion size unit. Other then in training the USAF has not and can not do a combat drop of a BCT or even drop a battalion size combat formation with its equipment for 72 hours in a single drop.

The AN-124’s that are being used to transport USArmy and USMC’s equipment, including M-1A2’s Tanks and Strykers from Diego Garcia to Afghanistan, are in fact owned by the Russian Federation, Volga-Dnepr is a shell company, with a single customer and uses AN-124’s and flight crews that are “leased” from the Russian military. This set up was done just so people such as yourself can claim that the Russian Military is not involved.

In conclusion USAF SSgt. you air force handlers have not done a good job in training you. But again its the USAF, what can I say.


Byron Skinner

Byron, better get that aluminum foil helmet back on and crawl back under your desk before THEY read your mind in your always imaginative, paranoid world.

Bywrong, Your typical tumbleweed post. The Haiti operation was a stunning insight into the stupidity of Army planning…why do an air drop at all…why not row/row a small armored task force into the DR and drive them to Cedras’ quarters? Haiti was a classic case of Army TOA concerns overriding common sense and operational needs. BTW, the AF’s primary missions are to (1) hold at risk or destroy the “family jewels” of America’s enemies and (2) if necessary, to establish the conditions for victory for land & sea operations by gaining/maintaining aerospace superiority. Fed/Ex for the Army when they cannot look after their grunts is down the list. Your 15,000′ remark reflects your ignorance and is typical of your juvenile posts. Grow up, get a life, try to be less of a nausating twerp.

I’m not saying contracted civilian haulers. I’m talking about BUYING the civilian aircraft and putting them into USAF service. BIG difference. A 777 can relieve MOST of the burden of what the C-17 and C-5’s do on a daily basis. Let the “militarized” 777 do most of the hauling and let the C-17’s do the airborne missions, parachute supplies, rough strip landings, etc. Why waste the dollars and airframe hours on a C-17 to fly something from Dover to Manas lets say, when a 777 can do it much cheaper thanks to the hundreds of them in service with civilian carriers.

Bring back the C-141 and the 1960-s — 1980-s crews that flew them. I was in MATS AND MAC and that
Major Command was the most professional Command in the USAF, including SAC.

I see the “Fighter Mafia” is at it again. We don’t have enough airlift capacity now, so the answer is to CUT airlift capacity?



I think you all make good points, but one thing that needs to be mentioned is “it’s about the economy stupid”. Given the choice (and money) I don’t think they would cut airlift, but the ones they’re looking to cut (C-5As) are extremely expensive to maintain and keep flying. Look at the readiness rates for these aircraft…they’re terrible, and frankly the money just isn’t available any longer in our defense budgets to keep them flying. To keep the C-5As viable they need new engines and avionics upgrades, and many have significant structural issues. Tradeoffs have to be made and unfortunatley the most costly systems (and least capable) are budget cutter targets.

Mr. Skinner,

YOU, obviously don’t know what really happened in Haiti. The USAF had NO military presence there. We had to first drop airfield operators (tactical dudes who could set up an airport). There was a lot of things that had to get done before the 82nd. could come through. Everyone would like to think that they are “tip of the spear”, but I assure you that the 82nd was NOT the tip of the spear on this mission. So, you might be correct that it took 72 hours for the USAF to get them on the ground. But who was on the ground in the first 12–24 hours? I don’t know that answer, but I know the USAF had someone there.

The Russian military company that you are referring to is owned by the state and not the military, that’s like saying USPS is owned by our military.

I do know who was on the ground in Haiti before the main USAF and 82nd. Actually it was teams of Soldiers and Airmen from Joint Task Force Bravo who did the initial setup. Flown in by their own Army Ch-47s operating out of Soto Cano, Honduras.

Nothing wrong with the C-5A, it all boils down to maintainence and how the planes are used or mis-used. They are not maintained worth a damn. If I bring one home and show the maintainers an issue they ignore it. I have to take the plane on the road to have anything fixed and most of the time limp it around with problems never being fixed. In the civilian world if issues arose like they do in the military people would be fired and in jail for half of what I’ve seen in the C-5 and C-17 communities. The C-17 has never lived up to Boeing’s claims, but a piece of that aircraft is in each Representatives pocket and Congress is going to support as they do their pay raise each year.

Originally, they were going to upgrade all the C-5As. However, they looked at the enormous costs of this upgrade program. I believe they found that the upgrade would improve C-5A fleet availability by 10%. Sounds impressive until you realize that that would be the equivalent of gaining 4–5 aircraft. If you divide the cost of developing and producing the upgrade that would make upgraded C-5As be so expensive it would make the B-2 blush!

For many years, you couldn’t even retire a C-5 because Congress had a law in place (because Georgia had a powerful delegation) that you needed congressional approval to retire a C-5.

i was stationed at travis from 62 thru 69 and 75 thru 81 in mats and mac. we had a lot trained and dedicated technicians. yes the c5a was a beast to maintain. but by hook, crook or steal we kept a high readiness rate.
supervisors got hands and uniforms dirty, checked behind our subordinates, and told the commander the true
story. most of us had pride in our work, and felt responsable. the air force changed its procedures in 80 in
that we were getting troops straight out of boot camp, some had no more mechanical capabilites than a hair stylest. our hands were tied in trying to redirect them to a different career field even though they may have been more productive. yes the c5a should be put to bed, the others upgraded to the c5m version. we need their heavy lift capability. but it still boils down to training and dedication.


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