The AF Says... "The Culture Of The Air Force C-5 Community Is Changing... And It's Changing In A 'Super' Way"
As the Air Force transitions to the C-5M Super Galaxy, the upgraded airframe has quickly become an integral part of the airlift mission. It has set dozens of airlift world records and spanned the globe completing historic missions. In October 2011, the C-5M was also a force in the C-5 "surge" where for a week 18 active duty and 23 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command crews and 41 total force C-5 Galaxy aircraft flew cargo in support of combatant commanders across the globe -- also an Air Force first.
The C-5 has long been known as the "Air Force's largest airlifter." In the future, Air Mobility Command officials say the goal is to have all C-5s become C-5Ms that would further strengthen the airframe's worldwide airlift capabilities.
The Air Force began an aggressive program to modernize all remaining C-5Bs and C-5Cs and many of the C-5As in its inventory when the C-5 Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, was instituted in 1998. This effort included upgraded avionics, improved communications, new flat panel displays, improved navigation and safety equipment, and a new autopilot system. The first flight of the first AMP-modified C-5 occurred on Dec. 21, 2002.
The second part of the C-5 modernization plan is the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program, or RERP, which includes new General Electric CF6-80C2 engines, pylons and auxiliary power units, with upgrades to the aircraft skin and frame, landing gear, cockpit and pressurization system. With both AMP and RERP upgrades, the C-5M was born. Dover AFB received the Air Force's first production C-5M in November 2010.
The Air Force plans to upgrade 52 Galaxies to "super" status by the end of 2016, said Lt. Col. Bob Shelton, A3 Strategy and Integration Officer with Headquarters AMC's Directorate of Operations.
"The C-5M significantly increases strategic airlift capability. We'll see tremendous improvement in reliability, direct-delivery capability and fuel efficiency. In turn, all of these will help reduce the demand on tanker platforms and the number of air refueling missions required," said Shelton, who has over 600 hours experience flying C-5s. "As our new strategic guidance looks towards operations in the Pacific, the improved capabilities of the 'M' will be especially beneficial to strategic airlift in the region and for overcoming the 'tyranny of distance.'"
The C-5M is also an airframe that aircrews and maintainers are talking about and eager to fly on.
"The C-5M is the future," said Staff Sgt. Steven Dow, a flying crew chief with the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Dover AFB, Del. "I love the C-5 -- always have in any variant -- but the C-5M is spectacular."
Dow, who's been a C-5 maintainer for more than 10 years, was among 14 aircrew members who took a C-5M on the Air Force's first direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from the United States to Afghanistan in 2011. On the 14-hour-plus flight to Afghanistan, the C-5M carried cargo for the Operation Enduring Freedom mission and "proved a strategic direct delivery concept."
On its way back, the same C-5M was also refilled with cargo from Kyrgyzstan, Southwest Asia and Western Europe that needed to be returned to the U.S. -- making efficient use of nearly all the 270,000 pounds of cargo capacity in the plane. All of the thousands of miles back to Dover AFB, the plane performed as well as expected by the crew, and added to the upgraded airframe's reputation as a "solid performer."
"The C-5M is a great mobility weapons system," Dow said. "During our mission to Afghanistan the plane flew all the way and had zero discrepancies or write-ups."
Lt. Col. Scott Erickson, a C-5 pilot from the Air Force Reserve's 709th Airlift Squadron at Dover, discussed the C-5M's capabilities and capacity.
"Having been with the M from the beginning, I'm always proud to show off what it can do," Erickson said. "Thanks to the engines, we can now carry more [with the C-5M], carry it farther and use less gas. In overflying places we used to stop for gas, or where we would have required an air refueling, the savings in time, money and maintenance adds to an already impressive package."
Dover AFB is also home to the 436th Aerial Port Squadron -- one of four original units that ushered in the "cargo precision loading" age that "standardizes air cargo build-up from depot suppliers and AMC aerial ports to maximize volume and weight utilization," according to an AMC talking paper.
According to Master Sgt. Mitch Pykosz, precision loading program manager for AMC's Directorate of Logistics, Air Transportation Cargo Policy team, one area where efficiency comes into play with precision loading is utilizing as much pallet space as possible on both contract and military airlift missions -- which in turn requires fewer missions to complete.
The effort includes building pallets to their maximum weight or volume goals, based on specific aircraft requirements including the C-5M, Pykosz said. Through February 2012, the precision loading initiative has enabled a 9 percent mission utilization increase which led to an avoidance of 195 air missions saving the Air Force and AMC millions of dollars in flight costs.
Combine the precision loading initiative with the C-5M's cargo capability -- including a world record of 176,450 pounds -- and there is a greater possibility for increased efficiency. A C-5M can actually hold up to 245,000 pounds of cargo depending on a number of factors to include runway length and atmospheric conditions, said Master Sgt. Andy Hoots, command manager for C-5 loadmaster standards and evaluations at Headquarters AMC.
Staff Sgt. Norterious Jenkins, a C-5 loadmaster with Dover AFB's 9th Airlift Squadron, said he thinks the C-5M is the airlifter that, when flying on it, feels like "you're always going to be back on time." It changes the "broke on the flightline" mentality that some historically have said the C-5 had been known for.
"The M is not like the C-5s we've always known...they have the ability to do more," Jenkins said. "Some of the things this plane has done, compared to the B-model [for example], are mind boggling."
And maybe that's the best way to describe the C-5M -- "mind boggling" possibilities. Dover AFB is the current home to all three of the C-5Ms delivered to the Air Force. Eventually, other C-5 wings, such as the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, Calif., will have the aircraft as part of their daily operations. In turn, having the C-5M available may change the culture and the history of the C-5 community in a "super" way. [ANN salutes Air Mobility Command Public Affairs for the story...]