The C-5 Galaxy by Lockheed

C-5 in Flight


The C-5 Galaxy by Lockheed is a large military transport aircraft which was originally designed by Lockheed. It provides the United Air force (USAF) with a heavy long ranged airlift capacity. The C-5 can carry oversized certified air cargo a great distance.

The C-5 Galaxy has many attributes to the small predecessor the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and the later developed Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.such as high wing, rear (C-5 only: front opening doors for loading outsized cargo) opening aft doors for cargo loading, four engines, passenger/troop capability, and long distance flight. The C-5 Galaxy is among the largest military aircraft in the world.

The USAF has operated the C-5 Galaxy since 1969. During that time the aircraft has been supportive of U. S military operations in all major conflicts including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and the Gulf Wars. It also aided in humanitarian disasters around the world. The C-5 supported the United States Space Shuttle program.

C-5 aerial photo

Design and Development

The C-5 Galaxy is a large high-wing cargo aircraft with a distinctive “T-tail” fin stabilizer, it has four TF39 Turbofan engines mounted on pylons on the wing. The wings are 25-degree sweep back.

It is very similar in layout to another Lockheed aircraft, the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, but a lot bigger. Above the plane length cargo deck is the cockpit and crew quarters and in the rear is an upper area for 75 passengers which face aft. Bay doors at forward and aft provide “drive through” loading and unloading of cargo.

Some other features and items of interest are: the cargo deck length is longer than the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, max load take-off require 8,300 ft of runway, max landing weight require 4,900 feet of runway, it has 28 wheels to distribute the cargo weight, the rear landing gear can be made to make smaller turning radius and rotates 90 degrees after take-off before being retracted.

The land gear can “kneel” to lower the cargo deck to truck level for loading/unloading cargo., it has a malfunction detection analysis to detect any component failure (“2001 Space Odysee”?), it can carry 36 463L master pallets, ramps are used to load vehicles of all types.such as five  United States Army (USA) Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 6/Boeing AH-64 Apache Helicop[ters.

C-5 with forward nose raised for front end loading in Antartic

The real story of the C-5 Galaxy beings in 1961 when several aviation manufacturers were asked by USAF to submit a proposal for a large, heavy jet transport designs that could replace the Douglas-133 Cargomaster and be a compliment transport to the C-141 Starlifter.

All users wanted higher performance than the C-133 which was a slow turbo-prop type aircraft.  The USA wanted a larger cargo bay then the C-141 had to offer for transporting tanks and helios.

A design concept called “CX-4” came out in that year.  In 1962, the concept of a 6 engine aircraft was discarded.  In 1963 a new design concept came out called CX-X which had 4 engines and an MTOW of 550,00 lbs, a max payload of 180,000 lbs, a TAS of Mach 0.75, the cargo compartment was17.2 ft by 13.5 ft high and 100 ft long, it had forward and aft access doors.

In April 1964 an official request for a proposal came out from USAF with Boeing, Douglas, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Martin Marietta,  and Curtis-Wright.  The engine proposal went to General Electric, Pratt & Whitney.

Three companies. were given 1-year “study” contracts, basically to build a design.  The three companies were: Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed.  The cockpit had to be well above the cargo area to allow forward loading/unloading through the nose and aft loading/unloading through the tail section of the aircraft.

All of the designs had forward and aft cargo access doors for simultaneous loading and unloading through the nose and tail.  The Boing and Douglas proposal contained a conventional tail while the Llochked used a “T-Tail” concept.

The USAF said Boeings design was the best in all respects, but Lockheed was awarded the contract in 1965 based on the lowest bid..General Electric was awarded the contract for the engines to power the new aircraft with the TF-39 high ration bypass engine.

While most jet engines of the day had a 2:1 bypass ration, the TF-39 had an 8:1 by-pass ratio which allowed for more thrust and better fuel consumption.

Cost overruns and technical plagued the C-5A Galaxy and were the subject of congressional investigation in 1968 and 1969.  The C-5 development was the first development program to have a $1 billion cost overrun.  Robert F. Dorr, Aviation Historian said of the C-5 program:

“After being one of the worst-run programs ever, in its early years, it has evolved very slowly and with great difficulty into a nearly adequate strategic airlifter and unfortunately needs in-flight refueling or a ground stop for even the most routine long-distance flights.  We spent a lot of money to make it capable of operating from unfinished airstrips near the front lines when we never needed that capability or had any intention to use it”.

Wake Island, The C-5 Magnet of The Pacific
“I (author)spent over 30 years on Wake Island.  Wake is situated just about halfway between Hawaii and Guam.  The USAF had many C-5 flights originating at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii that overflew Wake en route  Anderson AFB, Guam.  During my time on Wake, we would have about 3-4 C-5s divert into Wake on an in-flight emergency a month., usually with an engine shut-down.  Since Wake had no maintenance or spare parts, the stricken C-5 had to sit before another engine was flown into Wake by another C-5, then the maintenance that came with the new engine changed engines.”

One final note:  That 8-1 By-pass ratio created a howl that you will never forget.    It has been 15 years since I worked on Wake and I can still hear that C-5 howl, there is no aircraft engine sound like it in the world.

In 1982, Congress approved funds to build 50 C-5B, which included numerous system modifications to improve reliability and maintainability.

The first C5A was delivered to the USAF at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma in 1969  The first C-5B was delivered to USAF also at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma in 1986  There were 81 C-5A and 50 C-5B built.

Photo of some of a load of a C-5 Galaxy

Operational History

The C-5’s first mission was on 09 July 1970 in Southeast Asia.  The Galaxy was used to haul, supplies, equipment, troops, USA tanks, USA helos, and many other large vehicles and equipment throughout the remaining years of the Vietnam War.

Prior to the fall of Saigon C-5s were used to help evacuate South Vietnam.  In one tragic incident a C-5 had just taken off with 313 persons on board, a rear door pressure lock failed and the aircraft was returning to Saigon but never mad as it crashed short of the runway 144 aboard were killed out of the 313 with, 78 were children in what was known as Operation Babylift.  165 children did survive along with a handful of Med crew and flight crew

During the Yom Kipper War in 1973 C-5s and C-141 Starlifters carried critical ammo and other military supplies to Israel during Operation Nickel Grass.  The C-5 performance was so good, the Pentagon decided to purchase more C-5 Galaxys.

On 24 October 1974, Space and Missle command air-launched a Minuteman missile from an airborne C-5 over the Pacific at 20,000 ft.  The Minuteman descended to 6,000 ft and lit off and ascended back to 20,000 ft before completing the test and dropping into the ocean.  Further tests of this kind were canceled due to engineering and security problems.

The last C-5A was retired on 07 September 2007 although Many C-5As became part of the of the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and are designated C-5 AMP.  Although this aircraft had a rugged beginning, it was an able large cargo airlifter serving the United States military well.

Original C-5 Cockpit
AMP C-5 cockpit

Where you can see the C-5 Galaxy

700451 Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center Travis AFB, California

690014 Air Mobility Command Museum Dover Air Force Base, Delaware

At this time these are the only two places where the C-5 Galaxy is on public display

Tech Specs for the C-5 Galaxy

Wingspan: 222 ft 9 in

Length: 247 ft 1 in

Height: 65 ft 1 in

Weight: 380,000 lbs (empty) 840,000 lbs (MTOW)

Max Speed: 531 mph

Ceiling: 41,000 ft

Range: 5,500 nautical miles

Engine: 4/General Electric CF6-80C2 high ration bypass turbofan                                     51,000lbf each

Crew: 7 /pilot, co-pilot, 2 flight engineers, 3 loadmasters.



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