C-5 Galaxy Large Transport Aircraft

One of Jane's Fighting Nodes!

This is the biggest beast in the U.S. Air Force's bag of tricks. Built by Lockheed-Georgia, the first operational C-5 was delivered to the Air Force in 1970. All C-5's now in service are operated by the Air Force's Air Mobility Command, and are used to transport U.S. forces and equipment worldwide. Although the C-5 had severe teething troubles when it was first introduced (akin to the B-1B Lancer), it is now a relatively reliable airplane.

The good stuff: It's huge. Really big. Really, really, big. It may at one time have been the world's largest flying airplane (that title now belongs to the Russian Antonov An-225 Mriya transporter). In any case, it has several notable good bits about it.

  • Twin access. Both ends of the aircraft open to allow access to the massive cargo deck. The nose of the aircraft hinges upward just beneath the high cockpit; the rear has a ramp that lowers. This allows loading and unloading of the airplane to occur simultaneously, a time-saver which allows higher operational tempo.
  • Relatively short runway use. Relatively is the key word. With a full load, the C-5 can operate from runways 8,500 feet in length or less; a size typically available at any commercial widebody airport.
  • Large landing gear. 28 wheels share and distribute the weight of the airplane.
  • Kneeling suspension. The entire plane can be lowered hydraulically on its landing gear in order to facilitate loading. Loading ramps at both ends are of a width to allow drive-on/drive-off in either direction.

The heaviest item the C-5 is regularly tasked to carry is the U.S. Army Mobile Scissors Bridge. Weighing in at 74 tons, this is an extensible vehicle bridge that is built onto a tracked vehicles chassis. For comparison, the M1-A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank weighs under 70 tons.

The current revision of the C-5 is the C-5B, which incorporates many improvements into the original design. The last C-5B was delivered in March of 1989. Current upgrades now underway plan to keep the C-5A and C-5B aircraft (originally a total of 126 aircraft) operating for at least the next two decades. Current aircraft are powered by four T39 turbofans, rated at over 42,000 lbs. of thrust each.

Finally, some stats!

  • Primary Function: Outsize cargo transport
  • Prime Contractor: Lockheed-Georgia Co.
  • Power Plant: Four General Electric TF-39 engines
  • Thrust: 43,000 pounds, each engine, x 4
  • Wingspan: 222.9 feet (67.89 meters)
  • Length: 247.1 feet (75.3 meters)
  • Height: 65.1 feet (19.84 meters)
  • Cargo Compartment: height , 13.5 feet (4.11 meters); width, 19 feet (5.79 meters); length, 143 feet, 9 in (43.8 meters)
  • Pallet Positions: 36
  • Maximum Cargo: 270,000 pounds (122,472 kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: C-5B 769,000 pounds (348,818 kilograms) (peacetime), 840,000 pounds (381,024 kilograms) (wartime)
  • Speed: 518 mph (.77 Mach)
  • Range: 6,320 nautical miles (empty)
  • Crew: 7 (pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and three loadmasters)
  • Unit Cost:C-5A - $152.8 million (FY98 constant dollars) C-5B - $179 million (FY98 constant dollars)
  • Deployed:C-5A - 1969, C-5B - 1980

Info courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation and the U.S. Air Force fact sheet library