Air Force Fleet
Viability Board releases C-5A assessment, estimates 25 years
remaining service life
With some qualifications, the first Air Force Fleet Viability
Board assessment shows the C-5A Galaxy has at least 25 years of
service life remaining.
While the aircraft is among the oldest in the Air Force
inventory, officials reported there are no major structural life
issues. In the board’s judgment, with avionics and engine
modifications, the C5-A has the service life remaining.
The report indicates the aircraft still requires significant
maintenance effort and support costs, but nothing disproportionate
to the enormity of the aircraft itself.
This was the first aircraft to be assessed by the board.
“In this age of trying to make important weapon-system
decisions with severely constrained budgets, the C-5A assessment
provides valuable insight into the aircraft's projected technical
fitness, costs and availability,” said Col. Francis Crowley,
the board’s director.
“As one program
manager told me, it is great to have a detailed assessment of the
physical characteristics and associated costs in one concise
document,” Colonel Crowley said. “Having said that, the
board plans to make further improvements in our process based on
Secretary (of the Air Force Dr. James G.) Roche's
The assessments focus on technical issues and the cost of
continued ownership. The board considers cost, aircraft
availability and operational health as top-level indicators of a
fleet’s viability. Along with an analysis of alternatives, it
leaves consideration of force structure or operational impact to
the Air Force corporate structure.
Two major programs would significantly improve mission
capability rates: avionics modernization and reliability
enhancement and re-engining.
The avionics modernization program, which began in 1998,
includes upgrading avionics to Global Air-Traffic Management
compliance, improving navigation and safety, while increasing
reliability and maintainability of the avionics.
The reliability enhancement and re-engining program is a
comprehensive modernization that improves aircraft reliability,
maintainability and availability. It incorporates reliability
enhancements of on-board systems, re-engines the aircraft to
improve operational performance and strengthens the aircraft
structure to accommodate new engines and increased structural life.
The most significant power plant-related change is the replacement
of the old engine with the General Electric CF-6-80C2 commercial
“Given that the
board projects the C-5A to be viable for at least 25 years,
assuming that avionics and engine modification programs occur as
planned and continued positive results from teardown of an aircraft
at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Ga., the C-5A assessment can
serve as a valuable source for determining the best approach for
meeting future Air Force capability needs,” Colonel Crowley
“There are a number of planning organizations in the Air
Force that should find the board's analysis extremely helpful in
their planning process,” he said.
The board stood up in August 2003 to provide senior leaders with
an unbiased assessment of the service's aircraft fleet
The Galaxy is the nation’s largest cargo airlift aircraft.
It can carry more cargo farther than any other aircraft in the Air
Force inventory. However, the “A” model represents a
30-year-old fleet with significant issues and associated planned
C-5s provide passenger and oversized cargo airlift for both
air-land and special operations. One is capable of moving 291,000
pounds of cargo as far as 1,530 nautical miles, or 180,000 pounds
of cargo as far as 3,200 miles. It is also capable of carrying 73
passengers, including cargo weight. With its unique visor door and
kneeling capability, the aircraft can both load and unload
Of the 122 C-5s in active service, 70 of these aircraft are
“A” models. During the assessment period, four aircraft
were retired with another 10 aircraft slated for retirement at a
rate of two per quarter through fiscal 2005. The average age of the
C-5A is 33 years old, twice as old as the C-5B model. C-5As average
18,000 flying hours and range from 12,000 to 22,000 flying
(Our thanks to Tech. Sgt. David A. Jablonski of the Air
Force Print News)