The USAF’s last C-5A Galaxy departed Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, en route to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, on September 7. Serial 70-0461 will be placed in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) alongside 56 Galaxies that have been delivered to the Tucson base since 2011.
The Galaxy had seen more than 44 years of service and flown more than 22,500 flight hours.
The first operational C-5A was delivered to the USAF’s Military Airlift Command in June 1970. By 1973 the service had received 81 C-5As but a shortfall in airlift aircraft resulted in a restart of the production line and between January 1986 and March 1989, 50 improved C-5Bs were delivered.
Although the service planned to replace the avionics on the 126-aircraft fleet with a modern digital cockpit, between 2002 and 2012 27 C-5As, 50 C-5Bs and two C-5Cs were updated under the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP).
Development of the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP) began in late 2001. Like the AMP, the original plans called for upgrading more than 120 C-5s under the RERP including one C-5A and two C-5Bs that served as prototypes.
The program, which is being carried out by Lockheed Martin at its Marietta, Georgia, facility replaces the aircraft’s TF39 turbofans with the General Electric F138-GE-100 (CF6-80C2) engines that provide a 22 per cent increase in power. The RERP also provides more than 50 improvements to the aircraft’s structure and systems, adds a more powerful auxiliary power unit and installs the Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-24 Large Aircraft Infra-Red Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system. Ultimately changes to the airlift fleet resulted in the decision to retire the C-5A fleet and to scale back the program. When the project is completed in 2018, one C-5A, 49 C-5Bs and two C-5Cs will have been upgraded to C-5M configuration. C-5Ms are currently operational with two active-duty USAF squadrons and shared with a pair of AFRC associate squadrons. Another AFRC is in the process of transitioning to the C-5M and a second continues to operate the service’s few remaining C-5Bs. Through September 2016, Lockheed Martin had delivered 38 upgraded C-5Ms and 11 aircraft were undergoing modification. Once modified the C-5Cs are known as a C-5M Space Cargo Modified (SCM). The two C-5Cs had been previously modified to transport USAF and NASA space program cargo.
The contractor expects to induct the final Galaxy into the modification line in early 2017 with the final delivery following in Spring 2018.