Air Force Upgrades C-5 Galaxy Planes

Air Force Upgrades C-5 Galaxy Planes

The Air Force is adding new engines to its hulking C-5 workhorse aircraft as part of a  modernization approach designed to give the planes improved performance, reliability and fuel efficiency, service officials said.

The goal of the effort is to engineer a fleet of 52 new, upgraded C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft by 2017, replacing and upgrading some of the earlier A, B and C variants of the plane.

The massive aircraft, with 65-foot aircraft and 222-foot wingspan, is engineered to accommodate a maximum take-off weight of 840,000 pounds.  Earlier variants of the aircraft, beginning with the first C-5A models which first flew in the late ‘60s, have served the U.S. military in a range of conflicts.

C-5 aircraft have hauled food, troops, fuel, weapons and ammo in Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan; the large planes are able to haul tanks, helicopters, artillery and other Army air-transportable equipment as well as standard pallets and troops around the battlefield.

Thus far, 11 C-5 planes have received what the service calls Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining modifications, or RERP, an effort which replaces a TF39 GE engine with a stronger, more reliable GE F138-GE-100 engine, said Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick.

“RERP is a comprehensive modernization to improve C-5 reliability, maintainability, and availability.  It replaces TF39 engines and unreliable components to improve performance, fuel efficiency, range, and payload and throughput capability,” he said.

One analyst said adding a new engine brings a huge improvement to the plane.

“It is the only re-engining program the Air Force has initiated. Very few planes have every been re-engined. This is a great idea as it brings a tremendous improvement in range, payload and reliability,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.

This RERP modification is not intended to extend the service life of the aircraft because the analysis leading up to this modernization effort had previously determined the C-5 was deemed capable of performing its mission through 2040, Gulick added.

“Certain modifications were needed to allow it to operate in a modern digital environment while also improving aircraft reliability, availability, and maintainability.  The centerpiece for this modification is the replacement of the engine, which provides the capability to attain higher altitudes for air traffic management,” said Gulick.

While designed to improve reliability, the new engines also bring the added benefit of substantially increased fuel-efficiency for the planes.

During a recent mission in Afghanistan, two RERP-modified C-5Ms were able to match the performance of seven unmodified aircraft, Gulick said.

“While the seven unmodified aircraft flew 23 missions and moved approximately 1.6 million pounds of cargo, only two C‑5Ms were needed to fly 22 missions and move more than 2 million pounds of cargo due to their increased reliability,” he said.

The RERP program is expected to cost about $89.5 million per plane and $7.4 billion overall.

The C-5 aircraft have had some reliability issues over the years; at one point in the 1970s and 1980s,  the Air Force realized that the plane’s wing structure would only be functional for up to 8,000 hours of the 30,000 hours expected for the overall service life of the plane; as a result, the service opted to replace the wing boxes using a new aluminum alloy, according to research from the Teal Group.

The RERP program is intended to build upon progress made during a prior C-5 modernization effort called Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, wherein aircraft were engineered with a “glass cockpit” and other upgraded electronics and avionics.

“AMP avionics upgrades replaced unreliable components in the autopilot/flight augmentation systems and the flight and engine instrument suites.  Additionally, navigation/safety upgrades, and an all-weather flight control system were included.  Safety upgrades included a traffic alert and collision avoidance system and a terrain awareness and warning system,” Gulick mentioned.

The Air Force designed the RERP program so that it could synchronize with and build upon the technologies added during the AMP effort, a fleet-wide modernization effort going back to the late 1990s.

“C-5 modernization is a two-phase effort.  Phase 1 was the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and Phase 2 is RERP.  RERP provides an improved aircraft diagnostic system that assists maintenance personnel in the identification of malfunctions.  Additionally, upgrades to system operating software provide capability growth for future operational requirements,” Gulick said.

As the C-5M matures through the RERP program, the Air Force anticipates it will bring the potential of an 8 to 9-percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to legacy C-5s, he added.



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Good. But isn’t this already a few years old? It’s a very impressive airplane, from the days that Lockheed still had mroe than enough engineering capabilities. It was the largest aircraft in the world, in a big of a tug of war with the Boeing 747 (Boeing was still extremely respected and able). The golden years of US aircraft manufacture and design. I even read that Lockheed, first flew it’s c-5 at 7:47 AM (maybe PM), as a bit of a jab at Boeing, whose 747 flew several months later. It was indeed Boeing and Lockheed who competed for the large strategic airlifter contract of the USAF at the time, which Lockheed won. Boeing did use the expertise it had acquired into designing the 747, which of course was the utterly succesful Jumbo jet we all love.

Let’s hope the US get’s back in the game for real, requiring:
1. Massive investments in education (100B a year extra is a good start), steered toward engineering as well (subsidize STEM educatios, make it CHEAPER.
2. BIG government hand in EVERY company that gets defense dollars (seats on the board of directors, stringent laws that stipulate that NO engineer can be fired as a cost cutting measure). Better to keep them busy with technology demonstrators.
3. Design goods NOT just with US military in mind, but also with export potential. Nobody will buy a c-5 (too expensive), but foreign nations will LOVE c-130’s (back in the day, even now), etc etc. That brings you nice foreign currency while letting foreign nations pay your employees to work. The best thing to aim for!

The C-5 was the first airplane program where the US government paid for development costs. The airplane companies rightly enough complained that they couldn’t cover the cost of design of something this big and still be around to do other work if they lost. Ironically, Boeing took the US taxpayer’s money and designed the 747, which being a low wing airplane was not at all suited for what they Air Force wanted in an airlift aircraft. That was the origin of the procurement law that says you can only give the government what they specify. No more. No less. Boeing claimed their airplane exceeded the government requirement because they knew what the Air Force needed better than the Air Force did. At the time I didn’t understand what the problem was with Boeing designing a military airplane with a civilian spin-off as they’d already done with the 707, but then I didn’t understand how things were being financed in those days too. Funny thing is Boeing really came out the big winner in the long run betting on the commercial market for the 747.

It only took Lockheed 3 years from the point of the down select in ’65 to first flight in ’68. The C-5 AMP and RERP programs took 10 years. Plus I’ve never understood why Lockheed didn’t put the then brand new C-130J avionics system and cockpit in the C-5. They could have upgraded the C-130J avionics to the new standards required to fly above 30,000 ft and the C-5M would have a pair of HUDs and a moving map display (it has neither), but instead they went with the same stupid approach they first proposed for the P-7 and many of the key boxes were obsolete before the program even ended. I’m sure there were promotions all around for those genius moves.

First the C-5 is not the worlds largest airplane anymore the AN225 is

Second the investment in STEM needs to start at a lot lower level in High School and lower. Of course it would also help if the corporations paid for their Engineers rather than their Financers and Lawyers.

Engineers should be able to be fired for failing to complete designs, adhere to lean methods, and for not learning to share or present the designs information. But not as a cost of doing business. You cant cut yourself to design greatness but you cant pay when there is no performance, innovation and documentation.

Finally, dont blame Manufacturers for designing for their biggest customer. It was the US, that time is waning, but the Congressional Mandates for “buy american” still remain.

Enforce sanctions on the busted acquisition budgets (on primes and the officers the let a contract get out of control) and include punitive penalties that escalate the earlier the budget is busted.

I guess that RERP was hot, breaking news three years ago. Up to the minute coverage! Film at eleven!

One wonders whether “Kris Osborne” had even been born when the first C-5s entered service.

Was this an article or advertisement?

It was the largest airplane when it was born. The AN225 is a late 80’s vintage, some 20 years after the c-5. I know my aircraft.

About education, I believe something like Obama proposed, universal pre k or something. A child is a peace of clay. You have to form it as soon as possible. Even at 2 years old, send him to an environment where he learns to communicate and maybe even learns something. After that, indeed from elementary school and highschool. That’s a resource, a human resource. Well, good luck getting those things done in a country that hasn’t even mandatory education (look at all those preppers with their ‘home schooling’. This isn’t cooking. The government should NOT allow parents to home school those valuable human resources.

Anyway, yes about the engineers, but I have a feeling that ‘engineering’ as a whole is a lot less respected in anglo-saxon countries, than it is in other parts of the world. You can graduate a billion lawyers a year, you just create a leach society (myself almost finishing law school). The engineering/problem solving culture needs to return. Many US jobs are going UNFILLED right now, because of lack of skills/engineering. Automotive, energy, petrochem. You name it.

Worry about how you spend your money in europe. you have enough prblems of your own to worry about.

Are you talking “indoctrination”, comrade?

Oddly enough, there is considerable leasing of the C-5“s closest competitor, the Antonov An-124, as well as the lesser Ilyushin Il-76 variants (more a competitot to the retired C-141s).
Who says there’s no market for large-cargo aircraft with rear– and nose– loading abilities?
Speculation and rumor mentions that Russia/Antonov are even considering re-opening the An-124 assembly, in addition to newer variants of the Ilyushin 76 that overcome a number of the current aircrafts’ deficiencies.

“I’ve never understood why Lockheed didn’t put the then brand new C-130J avionics system and ****pit in the C-5…”

Why would LM foot the bill for that out of their own pocket when they’ve become so adept at getting the US goverment/taxpayer to pay for all that stuff instead?
If the contract isn’t there, don’t count on LM ponying up the money themselves, certainly not when that would cut into shareholders’ profit stakes.

“Engineers should be able to be fired for failing to complete designs, adhere to lean methods, and for not learning to share or present the designs information…”

By the same token, any corporation’s leadership (including those financiers and lawyers) should be held just as accountable when they continually fail to deliver originally-agreed-upon contract points.
Were that to happen, maybe LM (and others) would not be getting away with consistently failing to deliver products that continually fail to meet their original sell points, yet still demading more and more money over the original pricing.
Why should the goverment/taxpayers have to foot the bill for financial mismanagement within these corporations?
Too big to fail, like the auto industry?

Don’t pin it solely on the engineers for not being able to deliver on what corporate leadership, lawyers, and salesmen promise to the procurement people at the Pentagon: you can’t have people with minimal to no engineering background making all the judgment calls for the people who actually DO know just what the technical limitations of the generation do and do not allow for.

Further education.…yeah, right. You mean furtherindoctrination. Schools do not educate, they try to change and manipulate at the governments behest.

Now back on subject.….The C5M program should encompass all C5 aircraft. The USA has not near enough airlift should the need arise.

See, it’s people like you brigning counties down. Indoctrination? I know some of the ‘news outlets’ are brainwashing you and many like you. But if your basic confidence in EDUCATORS is gone, so goes your country. Mamma and pappa in Utah (mormons) can NOT educate engineers can they?

Think this is god rather than waste billions on a new plane we can upgrade this cheaper and it along with the C-17 does our heavy lifting for another 15 years minimum. Good job Senate and Air Force.

I am going to challenge the claim that there are not enough technically capable people to engineer things like we used to. There is actually a glut of experienced people right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. The media blitz regarding STEM is promoted by educators, in order for their jobs to be saved. As I said, there is a glut of engineers and scientists, so students should go elsewhere. Most educators have political views similar to Con Euro, believing something like farm subsidies for STEM educators are a good thing. When worthy projects are undertaken, the technical people will be available in droves. It is a project oriented pull, not an educated workforce push phenomenon. By the way, Con Euro, solar or wind projects don’t light my fire. Maybe…Saturn V?

There’s only a shortage of STEM at a particular wage level. That’s why Facebook and google want more H1B…

There’s a glut of undergrads and grads at the moment, but there isn’t a lot of hiring going on right now.

That’s the problem when avionics programs are envisioned as part of an aircraft contract, and not as a separate, potentially cross-portable unit. The intent is not to make something modular and flexible, it’s just to “make it work” for C-130J and if the government wants to port the gear to any other aircraft, simply sock them with the development costs. Why do it right the first time when Uncle Sam will happily pay you repeatedly?

Yep, indeed managment needs to at least have some understanding of engieering. Sadly, when the money shower always keeps on showering, companies adapt (become lazy). It becomes an ‘entitlement’ as you say. Yes folks, whe MIC is the biggest mooch/leach there is. Not those poor Detroiters, who would actually step up if somebody showed them how.

I don’t care about FB and google, any person can do that. I care about building the best aeroplanes, trains and automobiles. Engineering public works project and the like. You know, tangible, products. Software can be designed by anyone (maybe not today, but years from now). Watch india taking your software lead, and China already your manufactured goods lead.


I’d much rather spend, even OVERspend on education, than on the military, or farm subsidies, or on other sectors. An overload of knowledge can only be benificial. Nobody ever complained about knowing too much.

I agree with the need for an overhaul of the educational system, but don’t knock the homeschooling.… I never set foot in a classroom until my Freshman year of high school. Due to jobs, my parents traveled extensively, (for a time, my step mom was an Air Force pilot who flew C5s.… go figure. She was a major consultant and designer of the glass cockpits and upgraded instrumentation, as well as veteran of the 1st Gulf War.…. Before women in combat were cool.) and, therefore, so did I. It didn’t make sense to enroll in a school for 2 months, then leave, then go to another for 6 months, etc. My schooling consisted of math and science tutors 2 or 3 times a week, as available, depending on locale. In addition, I had a library card for every library in every port of call, often before I had seen where I would be sleeping. I was encouraged from a young age to explore my locations, immerse myself in cultures. Often, (starting around my tenth birthday, or so) I would find myself a “job,” usually just bothering a neighborhood business owner until they let me help, but I learned some car repair, landscaping, gardening, carpentry, etc. When finally enrolled in public school here in the US, I was shocked at how students were conditioned to remember basic facts just long enough to regurgitate them onto a test paper, never having to actually apply what was learned.…. So often I would hear my fellow students say, “Algebra? I will never use this in real life! We shouldn’t even study this.” Or, something like, ” European history? When will that ever make a difference to me?” The next year, American history is taught, with no tie in, no mention of the European history previously taught, other than “England’s King was George when the Revolutionary War.…” I even once had a teacher, Junior English, assign me my research paper, on T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Arthurian literature, movies, art, etc. has been as fascination since boyhood, for me.… I turned in a 25 page paper on Arthurian legend and literature as it reflected the times and locations of the various authors.…. She told me that my A was based on the first 3 pages, after which I “kind of lost her,” and she didn’t have time to read it, but she was sure that it was good.…. This was around 1990.… From what I have heard and read, things have only gotten worse.

Respect to you and your parents. But your ‘home schooling’ was really out of necessity. I meant to knock those ‘religious fanatics’ etc, who believe public schooling is created by Stalin and Hitler and Mao, in order to teach their children to become the anti christ. Those kids should be removed from their parents. That only creates an unfortunate chain of ignorance going on for generations.

I’ve seen an article about a early 1900’s 8th grade test, which is to say, almost upper high school level in today’s world. Guess what, during those times, the US could do and make anything it wanted. It’s all because of knowledge and a culture of wanting great things. Perhaps it was because the European immigration waves were still in effect, and complacency was still far away.

Interesting to see if the Air Force waits this long to do a similar improvement of the C-17. The C-17 has been around 20 years, you cannot tell me that technology has not improved since then.

The us still can. The engineers are there. It Just seams harder to get the ideas or inovation out through top level management.

Apparently we will be paying for a new mission computer pretty soon as that became obsolete as soon as it was put on these aircraft. Of course, who will miss it? It had all of the computing power you’d expect from a 1980’s computer with an 80286 processor. Both the C-130J and C-17 have HUDs, but not the latest version of the C-5? Hell, even the 777, 787, and A380 have HUDs and 3D moving maps, but that kind of technology is beyond the Air Force? You’d think the sheer embarrassment of their procurement failures would goad them into ending this fiasco of paying their contractors more to fail. I guess they’d need honor before they could experience embarrassment.

Concerned European is correct on the C5. The Antonov is a one-off the Russians made to see if they could out do the C5. Concerned European is wrong about everything government and education though. Not hard to understand why. A close look at the rapid decline of the EU should wake US up. The constitution is specific in funding the military. Get government out of education though. It’s just a political fund that rewards it’s union supporters with increasingly extravagant retirement packages we can ill afford. There is no incentive for quality education at all. It’s all a smoke screen. The proof is in the data. As for EU defense, the EU should fund their own defense. The EU would never have been able to brainwash their populations into socialism for so long without the US footing the bill for their defense. Let them handle the radical muslim uprisings they fostered an environment for. As for US, we better get on the ball before we look just like the EU, all the while the EU looks more like Greece. Concerned European forgets WHY there was mass immigration to the US from Europe. Institutions of higher learning were being controlled by governments. In the US they were controlled by PRIVATE institutions.

From what I understand, the A model of the C-5 (the ones that won’t get the new engines) got new wings in the 1980s, giving them the most wing life of fleet. Having the most wing life does not mean that nothing else needs to be replaced, but still wing life is usually the key item in deciding the amount of remaining airplane life.

What we really need is tariffs to protect our domestic markets and we need the federal government to get its nose out of everyone’s business. All the federal government does is stifle competition by picking favorites. I’d love to see what kind of innovation we’d see in commercial aircraft if the FAA would get out of the way. Competition fuels the need for engineers and scientists. Where there’s no competition there’s no need to hire smart people and allow them to innovate. That’s why engineering salaries have gone down and CEO salaries have gone up. Today influence is everything and innovation is squelched by government agencies across the board, including the courts who love to award lawsuits to anyone who breaks a fingernail on something new and innovative.

If it weren’t for the Big Data guys at facebook, the skillset needed to build programs to spy on people wouldn’t exist.

Spying=very important

Being a closet Soviet, I believe strongly in heavy industry. Granted, I think heavy automation and mechanization will make it a low-jobs industry, but industry is second to agriculture (since a nation may as well /starve/ without agriculture).

“I’d love to see what kind of innovation we’d see in commercial aircraft if the FAA would get out of the way.”

Interesting. What does the FAA do that is evil? Specify flawed testing regimens? I’ve always wondered if government’s problem was that it was insufficiently /flexible/…like bad buggy code that rarely gets updated, or is patched with tons of workarounds and gotos.

“Get government out of education though”

Oh sure, kick it back to the states. But the states want money. Let’s beg the feds!

There’s a reason why the federal government is in every pie: the states consent to it.

Planned obsolescence to the max. In the meantime, Moore’s Law races ahead

The US govt should get out of college loans for lame degrees. Stop backing undergraduate education outside of engineering and science. Back graduate education in medicine, then properly fund GME so medical students will complete residency.

Once the US government stops being sugar-daddy-student-loans to every college, then the existing colleges will stop squandering money on administrators and new construction to burn those money reserves.

Most of the big firms you see today started small and took risks, and there was a rich ecosystem of small companies. Regrettably, this ecosystem is dead. Government should give preference to small businesses and startups that deliver interesting products to the warfighter.

The third point is already being followed, and has been for decades. F-16, export. F-15, export. F-14, export (to Iran). F-35…export someday.

I have a friend who is running a research lab for the USAF. I keep trying lobbying him to start up a project building a USAF flight management system (FMS). In the last decade or so they finally stopped talking about adding vertical modes to FMS and have started requiring it for airplanes cleared to fly above 30,000 ft. If the USAF had its own, it could be in every USAF airplane instead of them buying an all new modified-commercial-off-the-shelf (MCOTS) version for every damn airplane. Hell, with all the capabilities of these FMSs now, the pilot spends more time learning how to program his flight plan into the FMS than they do learning how to manipulate the stick and rudder. Instead they buy these commercial FMSs that work fine in the commercial world where airplanes fly mission profiles that are as simple as climb, cruise, and land, and they spend a fortune trying to convert those into an FMS that will climb, cruise, decend, hit a tanker, climb, cruise, descend, drop bombs, climb, cruise, … It friggen doesn’t work. No matter what channels I go through, I can’t seem to stir any USAF interest in the project. Yet time and time again they fight this huge battle to get airplane’s with decent FMSs. C-130J, C-5M, C-130 AMP, KC-10. I think they only airplane program they didn’t have a lot of FMS issues with was the C-17, and that was because MD wrote their own FMS code for that airplane, and then went on to use a derivative of the same FMS in what became the (very popular with pilots if not with Boeing) 717.

WIth the numerical reductions in manpower and retraction from overseas basing, the USAF investing more in the C-5M is an absolute necessity to get heavy lift components overseas. From the old days in Vietnam to date this airframe has served us well. Just one positive up tick for an otherwise dismal weakening of our Air Force. The C-17, while admirable for some of its capabilities is neither heavy lift capable nor does it have the legs to get a Stryker out to the rim without several AR.

“It is the only re-engining program the Air Force has initiated”. I wonder what entity initiated the re-engining of the KC-135’s about 25 years ago.

good point on the 3d moving maps, I fly a light sport plane that has it and it works great, a major help even flying vfr . so if a plane as small and simple as one in this class can have it built in , why can’t our military

The moving map is a lot more critical for large, faster moving aircraft. The C-5 turn radius is measured in miles and they can probably land on 1/100th as many airports as a general aviation airplane has available. Lockheed seems to have established a track record of providing inadequate displays in the C-5M (http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​L​o​c​k​h​e​e​d​_​C​-​5​_​G​a​l​a​x​y​#​N​o​t​a​b​l​e​_​a​c​c​i​d​e​nts).

Well, we’ve already discussed DO-178b, which is a disaster for code. It requires a lot of low level testing that might have been more appropriate to 1970’s computers with kilobytes of code and a marked lack of any functional testing. In addition, the FAA likes to write “rules” that are very open ended and subject to interpretation. As one FAA evaluator told me, they like having rules written that way so the final certification decision is up to the interpretation of the individual inspector. What’s nice for them is not nice for the airplane builder. Often we who design aircraft use “case history” (meaning other certified aircraft have taken the same approach) as justification for new airplane certification. Clearly that squelches innovation. Plus, you can meet all of the FAA’s regulations and still be open to lawsuits. Before we had the FAA we met standards set by industry organizations like SAE. Since SAE’s standards were kept at the “state of the art” by the organizations who belonged to SAE, meeting their standards was an effective legal defense. Meeting the standards of a government bureaucracy means nothing in court.

You’re right. We received the first of many KC-135R’s in the early 80’s at McConnell/BMAC with # 61–0293, and the fleet, nearly 600 aircraft since then. I would call that a massive re-engine program.

You are right that the Antonov is a one off but not for the reason you gave. It was modified to airlift the Russian space shuttle Buran.

As the article mentioned, unreliable auto pilot systems have been replaced.….with an even worse system. The AMP mod has been a complete train wreck, and RERP is not far behind. The new engines have been tinkered with by LM/USAF. Guess what? The stuff they fooled around with is junk. The IDG, starter control valve, linking the thrust reverser halfs on each engine. This program is YEARS behind, no worries however. The USAF will continue to write blank checks for endless software updates trying to get this mess to work!

Well, that’s all well and good, Euro, and don’t think we don’t appreciate your rant, but the contract referenced in this article is an addendum to the 2009. The engine upgrade is a NEW — read that 2013 — upgrade.
But thanks for playing.

Check the news and then re-think your response. The upgrade mentioned is a NEW, April (?) 2013, contract. Get with the program, get out of the road, or get run over.

Back in 1978 I flew on a C-5 SuperGalaxy from Dover , Delaware to Rota, Spain AirForce base. Why is it the one I flew on had 8 engines and all I can find on the web site are C-5’s with only 4 engines. Is that because of the modifications that have been done. The C-5 that I was on had 4 pairs of engines hanging under the wings. Will or can I find a picture of the C-5 I flew on PLEASE? Thank You. RSVP.

The only jet that the USAF owns with eight engines is a B-52. I think that you were dreaming when you saw eight engines.


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