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Lockheed C-5 Galaxy Aircraft Plane

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C5 Airplanes – Super Galaxy Aircraft Plane C-5a C-5m

The Lockheed C5 Galaxy is one of the largest military transport aircraft in the world. As such, it is a source of pride for the United States Air Force (USAF). Suitable for carrying both outsize and oversize cargo, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy gives the USAF its intercontinental strategic airlift capability.

Since the beginning of its operation by the USAF in 1969, the C-5 Galaxy has spent 50 years in service. Throughout that time, the aircraft has carried out numerous airlift missions in support of U.S. military operations around the world. From Vietnam to Iraq, the C-5 Galaxy has been involved.

As the old adage suggests, though, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither was the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft. In fact, it took many trials and tribulations for the C-5 Galaxy to come to be as it is today. Let us discover the story behind this unique military aircraft.

CX-HLS: How the C-5 Galaxy Aircraft Was Born

By the early 1960s, the U.S. Army had developed a strong need for a conceptually new transport aircraft. The new aircraft needed to include a more spacious interior to be able to fit outsize cargo items. And it had to be able to transport it employing four rather than six engines in its design.

In 1964, the above criteria laid the foundation of a request for proposal for the CX-HLS aka “Heavy Logistics System.” Soon, the proposals for the design of a new aircraft followed from General Dynamics, Boeing, Douglas, Martin Marietta, and Lockheed.

The Lockheed Corporation offered the aircraft design that included the following features:

  • Elevated cockpit placement Similar to the designs proposed by Boeing and Douglas, Lockheed’s design featured setting the cockpit well over the cargo compartment. As a result of such unique cockpit placement, it became feasible to load cargo through the nose door as well.
  • Swept wings design As opposed to the older straight wings design, the swept wings configuration came with more benefits from an aerodynamic standpoint. In particular, the swept wings design was able to perform better at the velocities that neared the speed of sound.
  • Extended cockpit profile Unlike Boeing and Douglas, Lockheed chose to extend the cockpit profile down the span of the fuselage in its design. Due to this feature, the cockpit profile that Lockheed’s design included came with a cross-section that had an egg-shaped form.
  • T-tail empennage configuration Contrary to the designs that its competitors had, Lockheed offered to devise the new aircraft’s empennage using a T-tail configuration. As such, it mounted the tailplane to the top of the fin – not to the fuselage as in conventional tails.

Despite the innovative features it included, Lockheed’s design for the CX-HLS failed to outdo the proposal by its competitor Boeing. The USAF saw Boeing’s design as more preferable. Yet, Lockheed’s design came at the lowest total cost, which helped the company to win the contract for the project.

The issue of engine design, however, remained unresolved. Since the aircraft design needed to employ four engines, using a brand new engine configuration became a necessity. Due to this, Curtiss-Wright, Pratt & Whitney, and General Electric developed distinct proposals for a more fuel-efficient engine.

General Electric’s proposal became the winning one. The company offered its revolutionary TF39 engine, capable of a much better bypass ratio than its alternatives at the time. Boasting lower fuel consumption, General Electric’s TF39 became the engine of choice to power the CX-HLS.

Hard Road Ahead: The C-5 Aircraft Development Ordeal

From the beginning, the development of the C-5 Galaxy aircraft turned into an arduous endeavor. As a matter of fact, a number of challenges persistently kept coming to the surface:

  • Aircraft weight In 1968, the production of the first C-5A Galaxy aircraft was complete. And the first flight confirmed that the aircraft weight was within the guaranteed limits. Yet, the successive C-5 aircraft started to exceed the guaranteed weight restrictions.
  • Load bearing capacity The C-5 design required that the wing must be able to handle 150% of limit load. In 1969, however, a fuselage upbending test lead to the wing failure at 128%. And during the 1970 test the wing failed upon reaching 125% of limit load.
  • Cost overruns Interestingly, the C-5 aircraft program became the first development program with the cost overrun of over $1 billion. This lead to a congressional investigation into it in the late 1960s. And the abandonment of Total Package Procurement by the Department of Defense.
  • Lockheed publicity issues In 1969, Lockheed’s employee Henry Durham called for the company’s public accountability for the C-5 development. Initially abused, Henry Durham received support from the Government Accountability Office and the American Ethical Union.
  • Wing durability Following static and fatigue testing, cracks emerged on the wings of multiple C-5A aircraft. The finding inspired a restriction on the loading of all C-5A aircraft. As a result, all loading was to be kept within 80% of the maximum loading capacity allowed by the design.
  • Need for redesign Along with the wings, the fuselage of the C-5A also had a recurring problem. As such, it was prone to numerous cracks along the upper fuselage. The cracks necessitated a complete redesign of the hydraulic system for the front cargo entry point.

The above issues severely stalled the development of the C-5 Galaxy aircraft. But in spite of the problems, the C-5 turned out to be a success. In 1970, the first operational C-5A joined the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base. And with time, the need for newer versions of the C-5 appeared.

The Evolution of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy Aircraft

Ever since the release of the aircraft in 1969, the C-5 Galaxy has evolved to a significant extent. And to this day, there are several distinct versions of the C-5 aircraft known:

  • C-5A Being the original version of the C-5 aircraft, the C-5A was in heavy use between 1963 and 1973. Due to the many issues inherent in its design, it undergone a number of thorough redesigns and upgrades. As of 2017, the USAF has discontinued the operation of the C-5A.
  • C-5B As an optimized version of the C-5A aircraft, the C-5B integrates all the upgrades that the C-5A has gone through. Namely, it includes a more durable wings design, simplifications in the landing gear, up-to-date avionics, and upgraded TF-39-GE-1C turbofan engines.
  • C-5C This version of the C-5 aircraft was devised to fit larger-sized cargo, such as satellite systems. As such, it came without the rear passenger compartment floor and had other features that improved the internal cargo capacity. As of 2017, all C-5Cs have been upgraded to C-5Ms.
  • C-5M Super Galaxy In 1998, the Air Mobility Command began the C-5 Avionics Modernization Program. Its objective was to modernize all C-5As, C-5Bs, and C-5Cs that the USAF operated. The C-5M Super Galaxy became the version that incorporated all the upgrades.
  • L-500 Designed as a civilian version of the C-5 Galaxy, the L-500 aircraft was a planned project by Lockheed. The company intended to devise two distinct versions of the L-500: passenger and cargo. Due to high operational costs, no orders were placed for the L-500.
  • C-5 Shuttle Carrier The C-5 Shuttle Carrier was Lockheed’s proposal for a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The company proposed using a twin body C-5 aircraft for its design. Lockheed’s proposal, however, was refused since the Boeing 747 was chosen instead.

As you can see, an entire branch of aircraft versions stems from the C-5 aircraft concept. But what exactly is it about the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy that makes it stand out in relation to its alternatives?

What Makes the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy Aircraft Unique?

Regardless of the version, each C-5 aircraft comes with certain distinguishing features. Specifically, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft:

  • Employs a distinctive high-wing design that is unlike the low-wing design in similar aircraft like Boeing 747.
  • Includes a uniquely high placement for the vertical stabilizer with the empennage configuration using a T-tail setup.
  • Originally uses four General Electric TF39 turbofan engines, replaced with General Electric CF6 engines as of 2017.
  • Comes with 12 internal wing fuel tanks and the capacity to rely on in-flight refueling when necessary.
  • Features cargo bay doors at both tail and nose that allow for drive-through cargo loading and unloading.
  • Has full-width ramps and doors that facilitate the loading of two rows of vehicles and oversize cargo.
  • Contains a built-in system that can identify, analyze, and record malfunctions and errors across the entire aircraft.
  • Fits up to 36 standardized military air cargo 463L Master Pallets within its gigantic compartment for cargo.

The above list of features is by no means exhaustive. After all, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is a very complicated transport aircraft. Yet, the C-5’s capabilities make a world of difference to the USAF. And the use of the C-5 Galaxy aircraft has been essential to the many U.S. military operations worldwide.

Still in Active Service: The Operational History of the C-5

Ever since entering active service, the C-5 aircraft system has been valuable to the U.S. military efforts around the world. Among the U.S. military operations the C-5 Galaxy took part in are:

  • The Vietnam War Transporting U.S. troops and combat equipment during the Vietnam War became the first serious operational use of the C-5 Galaxy. The deployment of the C-5 within the operation began in 1970 and continued until the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
  • The 1973 Arab-Israeli War The use of the C-5 aircraft proved to be instrumental in Operation Nickel Grass during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As part of the operation, C-5s supplied Israel with various forms of military aid from the United States.
  • The Gulf War The C-5 Galaxy aircraft system showed to be a valuable supply asset of the U.S. military during the Gulf War. As such, it facilitated the logistics required for the operations of international coalition throughout the conflict.
  • The War in Afghanistan Providing strategic airlift capability, the C-5 Galaxy delivered logistics support for the U.S. military operations during the War in Afghanistan. It became a crucial logistical component of the operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel.
  • The Iraq War The strategic airlift capability of the C-5 Galaxy was in especially high demand during the Operation Iraqi Freedom. In its course, one C-5 was hit by a projectile, pointing out the need for aircraft defense systems.
  • Humanitarian efforts Delivering humanitarian aid to the areas affected by natural disasters and crises has been a routine function of the C-5. For instance, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft has made multiple deliveries of humanitarian aid to Rwanda in 1994.

Interesting Facts about the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy Aircraft

The C-5 cargo compartment is longer than the entire distance of the first powered flight made by the Wright brothers. As such, it is 121 ft in length and easily fits six Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters in one loading.

In the USAF, the C-5 Galaxy aircraft goes by the notorious nickname “FRED” that stands for “Fantastic Ridiculous Economic/Environmental Disaster.” Such reputation is due to the C-5’s insatiable need for fuel and the array of maintenance issues it comes with.

With its cargo compartment being over 31,000 ft3, the C-5 Galaxy can accommodate up to 67 tons at one time. This makes it capable of transporting almost any type of combat equipment from the US to anywhere on the globe.

The overall length of all the wiring required to operate the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft extends well beyond 100 miles. And the length of control cables alone in the C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft system amounts to more than 5 miles.

Up to six Greyhound buses or five Bradley Armored Vehicles can fit in the cargo compartment of the C-5 Galaxy. And the aircraft can transport in one loading the same number of vehicles as 13 specialized car carrier trucks would.

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