C-5M Galaxy

The USAF has operated the C-5 since 1969. In that time, the airlifter supported US military operations in all major conflicts including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan, as well as allied support, such as Israel during the Yom Kippur War and operations in the Gulf War. The Galaxy has also been used to distribute humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and supported the US space program.

Lockheed: C-5M Galaxy

Role Strategic airlifter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed Corporation
Lockheed Martin
First flight 30 June 1968
Introduction June 1970
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced C-5A: 1968–1973 / C-5B: 1985–1989
Number built 131 (C-5A: 81, C-5B: 50)

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C-5M Galaxy (1968)

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C-5M Galaxy (1968)

The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is a large military transport aircraft originally designed and built by Lockheed, and now maintained and upgraded by its successor, Lockheed Martin. It provides the United States Air Force (USAF) with a heavy intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability, one that can carry outsized and oversized loads, including all air-certifiable cargo. The Galaxy has many similarities to the smaller Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and the later Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The C-5 is among the largest military aircraft in the world.

The C-5 Galaxy’s development was complicated, including significant cost overruns, and Lockheed suffered significant financial difficulties. Shortly after entering service, cracks in the wings of many aircraft were discovered and the C-5 fleet was restricted in capability until corrective work was completed. The C-5M Super Galaxy is an upgraded version with new engines and modernized avionics designed to extend its service life beyond 2040.


The C-5 is a large, high-wing cargo aircraft with a distinctive high T-tail fin (vertical) stabilizer, with four TF39 turbofan engines mounted on pylons beneath wings that are swept 25°. (The C-5M uses newer GE CF6 engines.) Similar in layout to its smaller predecessor, the C-141 Starlifter, the C-5 has 12 internal wing tanks and is equipped for aerial refueling. Above the plane-length cargo deck is an upper deck for flight operations and for seating 80 passengers in rear facing seats (unlike most commercial airplanes) and the embarked loadmaster crew in forward facing seats. Bay doors at both nose and tail open to enable “drive-through” loading and unloading of cargo.[50]

The cargo hold of the C-5 is one foot (30 cm) longer than the entire length of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.[51] For its voracious consumption of fuel and its maintenance and reliability issues[52] the Galaxy’s aircrews have nicknamed it “FRED”, for Fucking[N 1] Ridiculous, Economic/Environmental Disaster.

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Lockheed C-5M Galaxy (1968)

Following a study showing that 80% of the C-5 airframe’s service life was remaining,[99] Air Mobility Command (AMC) began an aggressive program to modernize all remaining C-5Bs and C-5Cs and many of the C-5As. The C-5 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) began in 1998 and includes upgrading the avionics to comply with Global Air Traffic Management standards, improving communications, fitting new flat-panel displays, improving navigation and safety equipment, and installing a new autopilot system. The first flight of a C-5 with AMP (85-0004) occurred on 21 December 2002.

The Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP) began in 2006. It includes fitting new General Electric F138-GE-100 (CF6-80C2) engines, pylons and auxiliary power units, and upgrades to aircraft skin and frame, landing gear, cockpit and pressurization systems.[44][101] Each CF6 engine produces 22% more thrust (50,000 lbf or 220 kN),[102] providing a 30% shorter takeoff, a 38% higher climb rate to initial altitude, an increased cargo load and a longer range.Upgraded C-5s are designated C-5M Super Galaxy


  • Crew: 7 typical (aircraft commander, pilot, 2 flight engineers, 3 loadmasters); 4 minimum (pilot, copilot, two flight engineers)
  • Capacity: 36 master pallets 463L, 281,000 lb (127,459 kg)
  • Length: 247 ft 1 in (75.31 m)
  • Wingspan: 222 ft 9 in (67.89 m)
  • Height: 65 ft 1 in (19.84 m)
  • Empty weight: 380,000 lb (172,365 kg)
  • Gross weight: 840,000 lb (381,018 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 920,000 lb (417,305 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CF6-80C2 turbofan engines.
    • Maximum speed: 462 kn (532 mph, 856 km/h)
    • Maximum speed: Mach 0.79
    • Cruise speed: 450 kn (520 mph, 830 km/h) / M0.77
    • Range: 4,800 nmi (5,500 mi, 8,900 km) with a 120,000 lb (54,431 kg) payload. 2,300 nmi (4,260 km; 2,647 mi) 
    • Ferry range: 7,000 nmi (8,100 mi, 13,000 km) with no cargo on board.
    • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,000 m) at 750,000 lb (340,194 kg)
    • Take-off run: 5,400 ft (1,646 m)
    • Landing run: 3,600 ft (1,097 m)

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A total of 52 C-5s are contracted to be modernized, consisting of 49 B-, two C- and one A-model aircraft through the RERP. The program features over 70 changes and upgrades, including the newer General Electric engines. Three C-5s underwent RERP for testing purposes. Low-rate initial production started in August 2009 with Lockheed reaching full production in May 2011; 22 C-5M Super Galaxies have been completed as of August 2014. RERP upgrades were completed on 25 July 2018. The Air Force received the last modified aircraft on 1 August 2018.

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