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Intellectual modernization of the C-5: making the Galaxy expeditionary.


Let us not attempt to reconcile contradictions, but firmly embrace a rational alternative.

--Alexander Hamilton The Federalist, no. 23

THE TIME HAS come for the Air Force to deploy the C-5 Galaxy routinely in an expeditionary role. Recent experience suggests that forward-deployed C-5 operations have become the rule rather than the exception and should be codified into expeditionary doctrine. (1) This doctrine or "intellectual modernization" complements ongoing mechanical upgrades via the avionics modernization program(AMP) and the reliability enhancement and reengining program (RERP). Furthermore, by mitigating the C-5's achilles' heel--poor mission-capable (MC) or reliability rates--the AMP and ReRP should give air Force leaders additional confidence to deploy the Galaxy routinely. Guidance from Department of Defense and Air Force leadership is clear: now is the time to change.

Challenging the military to transform, former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld opened his Transformation Planning Guidance of April 2003 by remarking, "As we prepare for the future, we must think differently and develop the kinds of forces and capabilities that can adapt quickly to new challenges and to unexpected circumstances. We must transform not only the capabilities at our disposal, but also the way we think, the way we train, the way we exercise and the way we fight "(emphasis added). (2) Likewise in the Air Force's posture statement for 2006, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen T. Michael Moseley challenge Airmen to "look from their heritage to the horizon, taking lessons from the past and adapting them for the future." (3)

Using these strategic imperatives for change as a guide, this article seeks to begin a discussion about intellectual modernization of the C-5. First, it highlights the aircraft's unique capabilities, citing its early combat employment to trace its expeditionary doctrine back to the 1960s. Next, it shows that despite the C-5's reputation as mechanically temperamental, the label of unreliability (and thus of limited use in expeditionary operations) is not necessarily justified. In addition, expeditionary and expeditionary-like employments (both combat and noncombat) make a compelling case for routine deployment. Finally, to round out the discussion regarding intellectual modernization, this article proposes changes not only to doctrine but also to organization, training, material, leadership, personnel, and facilities. (4)

To narrow the discussion, it makes three assumptions. First, we must continue to use the C-5 as a combat asset. This follows the second tenet of Pres. Ronald Reagan's directive on US airlift policy in 1987: "The role of the military component of the airlift fleet is to do what commercial transport aircraft or civilian air-crews cannot or will not do." (5) Second, studies indicate that a modernized C-5M will increase reliability and provide a more capable airplane. (6) Finally, this article does not pit C-5s against C-17s. The air Force will operate both platforms for decades to come. (Current programming projects at least 50 C-5ms in the mobility Requirements study of 2005 and the Quadrennial Defense Review of 2006.) (7) Rather than placing modern combat-airlift aircraft in competition with each other, this article leverages their strengths in order to exploit the capabilities of the C-5.

Impressive Capabilities
 The bottom line was that if the airplane [C-5]
 lived up to its expectations, "global military
 airlift will be completely revolutionized."

 --Lt Col Charles E. Miller
 Airlift Doctrine

During the same decade that america sent men to the moon and returned them safely, Lockheed engineers built the C-5 Galaxy, the United states' largest and heaviest-military-airlift jet. (8) For three decades, Us leaders have often reached for the C-5 in their force-projection quiver. In light of its reputation for maintenance problems (some anecdotal, some legitimate), however, they have often hesitated to employ this tremendous national asset and its unique capabilities.

In terms of cargo capacity--both volume and total weight--the C-5 has no equal. (9) With room for 36 standard 463L pallets, it carries twice as many as the C-17 (18), nearly three times as many as the C-141 (13), and six times as many as the C-130 (6). (10) Furthermore, it can simultaneously transport up to 95 aircrew members and passengers combined (20 in the upper flight deck and 75 in the upper-aft troop compartment). Just as impressive is the total cargo weight. The C-5 can carry 291,000 pounds compared to 167,000 for the C-17; 68,725 for the C-141; and 40,000 for the C-130. (11)

Designed for forward operations, the C-5 boasts such features as the use of nitrogen to render vapor in the wing fuel tanks inert and other firefighting capabilities throughout the aircraft, which make it highly survivable. Because it can load/unload through fully opening doors in both the nose and aft portion of the aircraft, it requires little or no ground-support equipment. (12) moreover, its high-flotation landing gear enables it to operate on unimproved surfaces (including ice). In fact, the C-5 applies less stress to runways and taxiways than any other US airlifter. (13)

The Galaxy's payload and range are also impressive. It can carry everything in the US defense arsenal, including battle-ready tanks, helicopters, submarines, boats, and the massive 74-ton mobile scissor bridge. A fuel capacity of 332,500 pounds contained in the wings (over 51,000 gallons) contributes to its long range and enables forward ground refueling. For example, a C-5 with a cargo load of 270,000 pounds can fly 2,150 nautical miles, off-load, and fly to a second base 500 nautical miles away from the original destination--all without aerial refueling. With aerial refueling, only crew endurance limits the aircraft's range.14 as the United states adjusts its global defense posture, the combination of the C-5's range and payload remains a vital force-projection capability. (15)

The aircraft can also perform airdrops. On 7 June 1989, a single C-5 air-dropped paratroopers and equipment totaling 190,346 pounds--still a world record. (16) in the decade that followed, the air Force halted the C-5 airdrop program. According to the service's "heritage to horizons" posture statement of 2006, which suggests taking lessons from the past and adapting them to the future, an airdrop-capable C-5 could augment current or emerging airdrop requirements. (17) An array of combat-airlift capabilities resides in the C-5. Soon after the Galaxy became operational, world events tested these capabilities and shaped early employment doctrine.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
 There is nothing new.... The new is the history
 you didn't read.

 --Pres. Harry S. Truman

The idea of forward-deploying the C-5 originated before the giant airlifter became operational. Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown lay the groundwork for this doctrine in the mid-1960s, stressing his willingness "to commit publicly to the idea of having both the C-141 and C-5 deliver directly to forward logistics bases rather than main ones in the rear if the landing zones could handle them." (18) These forward-deployed operations, albeit not conducted on a routine basis, nonetheless established the foundation for today's C-5 combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On 3 May 1972, two years after taking possession of its first operational C-5, military airlift Command (MAC) completed the first three of 18 C-5 combat sorties into Vietnam. To counter North Vietnam's easter Offensive of 1972, Gen Creighton Abrams Jr., commander of military assistance Command, Vietnam, requested the emergency airlift of six MK-48 tanks from Yokota air Base, Japan, to Da Nang air Base, south Vietnam. (19) Demonstrating MAC's inter theater airlift doctrine--rapid deployment of combat forces--the six tanks were off-loaded in less than seven minutes and proceeded from the airfield directly into combat. Building on this success, 15 additional C-5 combat missions to Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay--averaging off-load times of just 32 minutes each--delivered 42 M-41 tanks and eight M-548 tracked vehicles. (20)

Gen Howell Estes Jr., commander in chief of MAC (CINCMAC) from 1964 to 1969 and the genius behind this unconventional C-5 employment, identified flexibility as the most significant principle of war in the modern era, stating that throughout the Cold War, global airlift had given the United states maximum flexibility. (21) Building on this theme, General estes later wrote that "the role of modern combat airlift, then, is to airlift combat forces and all their battle equipment, in the size and mix required--with the greatest speed--to any point in the world, no matter how remote or primitive, where a threat arises or is likely to erupt." (22)

On 14 October 1973, a C-5 carrying 186,200 pounds of cargo landed at Tel Aviv's Lod International Airport. Highlighting rapid global mobility and the flexibility of modern combat airlift (as well as putting the aircraft at risk from potential terrorists and missile attacks), this C-5 landed just nine hours after Pres. Richard Nixon gave the order for the United states to send military supplies to Israel. It thus completed the first mission of a combined C-141/C-5 airlift called Operation Nickel Grass. (23) in 32 days of Nickel Grass, this combination of aircraft posted some impressive statistics, but the political results proved even more impressive, as reflected in Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's statement that "for generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the materiel that meant life to our people." (24)

These two operations validated Secretary Brown's construct of putting large jet aircraft forward, demonstrating that under certain conditions--or, as the secretary stated, "if the landing zones could handle them" (see above)-then the C-5 could and should be used. Although much has changed since the early forward deployments of this aircraft, one constant remains--poor MC or reliability rates.

Reliability: The Galaxy's Achilles' Heel

People, ideas, hardware ... in that order.

--Col John R. Boyd, USAF

Pushing technology of the 1960s to the limit presented Lockheed engineers with an enormous challenge. For example, each C-5 contains over 90,000 parts--the equivalent of four F-16s. As if to portend the future, when Gen Jack J. Catton, CINCMAC, landed the first operational C-5a on 6 June 1970, a wheel from the left landing gear separated from the airplane and bounced down the runway. (25) Likewise, personnel in Israel had to unload all 186,000 pounds of cargo from Nickel Grass's first C-5 by hand because the crucial materiel-handling equipment and aerial porters were on board a second C-5 that had diverted for maintenance. (26)

The MC rate for the C-5 fleet has always hovered around 65 percent--well below the required 75 percent during wartime. (27) In the past, the Air Force has focused on single-system modifications that have yielded marginal increases in mC rates. (28) Critics argue that the AMP and RERP represent more of the same. However, as noted in an article titled "saving the Galaxy," the more comprehensive AMP and ReRP programs may finally solve a majority of the Galaxy's mechanical woes. (29)

No doubt the C-5 is difficult to maintain; however, prior to the multibillion-dollar investment in the AMP and ReRP, C-5s had achieved noteworthy MC rates. The next section captures the aircraft's recent mission (as well as maintenance) success in forward-deployed operations, casting doubt on the notion of poor rates as the sole barrier to future deployments.

Recent Developments
 At a White House National Security Council
 meeting on 28 September 2001 as President
 Bush considered Afghanistan military options
 following the 9/11/01 attacks, Secretary of
 Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated, "There's an
 Uzbek airport eight to 10 miles from the main
 airport. We're going to send in our assessment
 team, we're going to see if the airstrip can accommodate

 --Bob Woodward
 Bush at War

Today, scores of successful C-5 combat missions into Afghanistan and Iraq trace their roots to secretary Brown's original forward-deployment construct: "[C-5s] deliver directly to forward logistics bases rather than main ones" (see above). Modeled after previous C-130 and C-17 expeditionary airlift squadron (EAS) deployments, the successful C-5 EAS in July of 2002 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom marked a historic "first" for the aircraft (note the late entry of the C-5 into a truly deployed expeditionary role). (30) It was not the fact that C-5s flew into combat or into the bomb-cratered, night-only runway in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that made history. Nor was it the 782nd EAS's launching of 100 percent of these sorties (26) on time to extract the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment six days (25 percent) ahead of schedule. Rather, this represented the first-ever expeditionary deployment of a C-5 squadron in a combat theater with a complete support-and-command structure. (31) Pentagon after-action briefings to the secretary of the air Force and air Force Council in December 2002 confirmed the expeditionary capability of the C-5. secretary James Roche summed up the operation by saying, "You all did a magnificent job on your first ever combat deployment." (32) Immediately afterward, in august 2002, Air Mobility Command (AMC) deployed its second C-5 eas, which extended the string of on-time departures by 15 more sorties to the even shorter, narrower, daytime-only (for construction) Kandahar airfield. (33)

Noncombat operations can also help shape new expeditionary doctrine for the C-5. Options such as backup aircrews/aircraft, highly qualified aircrews, and forward-deployed leadership contribute to the success of Phoenix Banner--AMC's highest-priority airlift mission (presidential support).34 even before eas deployments became commonplace, the author witnessed the utility of forward or expeditionary-like employment of leadership, crews, and maintenance. For example, in the year 2000, AMC successfully merged hundreds of C-17, C-5, and air-refueling missions to safely move the Us president's support staff to india (in support of the asia-Pacific economic Conference).

Forward deployment has also proved valuable in training and readiness exercises. In mid-2001 the author deployed C-5s (and C-141s) stateside in an expeditionary operational readiness inspection. In fewer than five days, this expeditionary wing not only deployed and then redeployed itself but also launched all C-141 and C-5 missions on time--many in a simulated chemical environment. These noncombat, expeditionary-like employments further demonstrate that it is time to rewrite our doctrine and make C-5 expeditionary operations routine.

An Argument for Change
 It must be considered that there is nothing
 more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful
 of success, nor more dangerous to handle,
 than to initiate a new order of things.

 --Niccolo Machiavelli
 The Prince

Other aging, Cold War legacy systems have modified their doctrine--the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 stratotanker, for example. Adopting technology to war fighting, the Air Force transformed the B-52 into a platform capable of delivering nuclear and conventional weapons via the global positioning system, upgraded its guidance technology, and wrote new doctrine for the aircraft. Substituting precision for mass, B-52s evolved from carpet-bombing into successful close-air-support platforms that caught the world's attention during enduring Freedom. America continues to rely heavily on this aircraft.

Likewise, the KC-135 underwent a modernization program similar to the C-5's AMP and ReRP. The R-model conversion program centered on new engines and avionics for the 1950s-era tanker, and, as occurred with the B-52, airmen transformed doctrine for the KC-135, whose Cold War mission involved a garrisoned nuclear-alert force, a refueling only tasking, and "hard" crews (including navigators). (35) After the ColdWar, its doctrine changed to include expeditionary forward-deployed forces, a new cargo (roller) mission, mixed crews, and a reduced crew complement (replacing navigators with new avionics). KC-135s flying over Baghdad's surface-to-air-missile engagement zones fewer than two weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom touted part of the doctrinal evolution.

The B-52 and KC-135 examples illustrate a precedent for modernizing doctrine along with platforms. Incorporating C-5 employment into expeditionary doctrine constitutes one intellectual-modernization proposal for this aircraft. In order to capture the rest, the remainder of this article utilizes the Joint staff's capabilities template for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, and personnel (deliberately excluding changes to facilities).


In light of transformation and expeditionary strategic imperatives, the recent success of forward deployments makes traditional C-5 "stage" operations ripe for change. (a traditional airlift stage, with pre-positioning of aircrews at key airfields around the globe, resembles the US Mail Service's Pony Express, in operation from 1860 to 1862. That is, when an aircraft lands, fresh aircrews stage or swap--just as Pony Express riders swapped horses--to keep the aircraft moving to a destination or back to the pickup point.) (36) Though efficient at moving forces during large operations, staging has experienced some shortfalls.

Aircrew anecdotes criticizing stage operations are legendary. However, the real impact lies at the strategic level, especially for a long war. First, as mobilization authority for the Reserve and Air National Guard (which make up the majority of the C-5's crew force) runs out, the Air Force must find ways to prosecute the global war on terrorism while efficiently managing a limited crew force. Aware of this situation across his command,Gen Duncan McNabb, commander of AMC, is "pushing for a number of reforms, in-house and in conjunction with US Transportation Command," to adjust AMC's high operations tempo. According to the general, "'That mobilization authority is starting to run out' ... so AMC must 'get to the point where we can do this steady state.' " (37) During the "long war," C-5 aircrews have spent as much time away from home as fellow Airmen (in increments of 14-30 days) but do not receive credit as part of an air and space expeditionary force (AEF). In 2002 and 2003, C-5 pilots were away from home longer than any other amC pilots. (38) During this same period, less than 10 percent ever approached the Air Force's mandated 90-day flying-hour maximums. (39)


Second, since C-5 crews are enablers, they do not qualify for AEF advantages of predictability, training priority, and guaranteed postdeployment downtime. Although not considered as "tactical" as the C-130 or C-17, C-5s nonetheless routinely operate in the iraqi and Afghani combat zones. Unlike C-130 or C-17 crews, however, in the traditional stage paradigm, C-5 crews are sent into combat by a stage manager--not a commander. A recent deployment of C-17 aircrews (and a squadron commander) in southwest asia highlights the manifold benefits of deploying aircrews versus staging. The C-17 eas commander stated that " 'this way of operating [deploying] gives both the combatant commander as well as the aircrews the continuity needed to improve reliability and efficiency. Aircrews get accustomed to the combat environment and users get accustomed to the crew and squadron leadership. it's a win for everyone.' " moreover, this deployment reduced required aircrews by up to 50 percent. (40)

To meet the demands of a long war, revised C-5 expeditionary doctrine focuses on improving mission success--but could produce improved aircrew efficiency as a by-product. For example, a complete eas (commander and aircrews) would deploy to an existing C-5 stage location for 90--120 days and fly sorties to/ from the iraqi and afghani combat zones (or where directed in-theater). Nondeployed C-5 crews shuttle passengers and cargo from the United States to the eas location and back--a mission for demobilized Reserve, National Guard, and nondeployed active duty crews. As the C-5 eas matures, C-5 Reserve and National Guard crews could assume more taskings--as have their combat Air Force counterparts. how many additional truck convoys could we remove from the hostile roads of iraq and afghanistan if we forward-deployed C-5s routinely?

We should consider one other doctrinal consideration: could the air Force use a modernized C-5m for airdrop? Taxpayers must expect more from their $8 billion AMP and RERP investment, and the Air Force should demand even more from a modernized C-5M. The C-5 would certainly not become the Air Force's primary airdrop platform, but the service might wish to consider the Galaxy's ability to air-drop heavy equipment as one option for meeting current and emerging requirements for such delivery and force projection. The challenges of a long war put an ever-increasing premium on the current combat airlift fleet and thus demand that doctrine evolve to keep pace.


We should deploy C-5 aircrews under the AEF construct as an eas to existing stage locations (see doctrine above). Three- and six-ship C-5 unit type codes exist and have been exercised. Critics may argue that this will put C-5 aircrews in the same deployment spiral that C-130 crews experience; however, C-5s have a much higher crew ratio than do C-130s. Moreover, the EAS conforms with General moseley's most recent heritage to horizons priorities. Under his first priority, "Prosecute the Long War on Terrorism," applicable tier-two initiatives that align with C-5 intellectual modernization include the following: "align garrison organizational template with expeditionary template, align [unit type codes] to minimize non-unit deployments, ensure 100% of uniformed members are in aeF deployment bucket." (41) Airmen comprising C-5 aircrews aren't the only ones to benefit from this initiative (see stage managers, expeditors, and ramp supervisors in the section on "Leadership and Education," below).

Another recommendation calls for attaching maintenance units to deploying C-5 flying squadrons--especially for the mechanically temperamental Galaxy. "Combat Wing Organization," a "Chief's sight Picture" from Gen John Jumper, former air Force chief of staff, reiterates this construct:

When i was a squadron commander there was an aircraft maintenance Unit (AMU) attached to my squadron. I didn't command the AMU. The officer in charge of the amU was trained by the colonel who ran the maintenance organization. This colonel had been in the business of maintaining airplanes for 24 years. When the squadron deployed, there was no doubt that the AMU would come under my command. But that AMU had been trained by someone who knew the fixing business as well as i knew the flying business. (42)


C-5 training challenges include developing a weapons instructor course (WIC), moving the formal training unit (FTU), incorporating maintenance success, and evaluating mission readiness. Intellectual modernization puts establishing a C-5 WIC at the forefront. This course serves as the air Force model for institutionalizing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP)--turning combat lessons identified into lessons learned. TTP continuity previously maintained by the C-5 special-operations community (eliminated in 2003) now has no formal home to institutionalize combat lessons learned. Nonetheless, C-5 aircrews' ability to safely execute tactical approaches/departures, integrate night vision devices, swiftly conduct engine-running on- and off-loads, and survive a surface-to-air-missile strike proves that today's C-5 crews are more than ready to embrace the intratheater or tactical combat-airlift role. (43) If current TTPs and training profiles are any indication, the C-5 still lags behind current needs. As of the summer of 2006, C-5 annual refresher training still did not include afghani or Iraqi databases or require combat entry and exit profiles.

In fiscal year 2007, the Air Force's C-5 FTU moves from altus AFB, Oklahoma, to an air Force Reserve Command unit at Lackland AFB's Kelly Field, Texas. Ensuring that this transfer goes smoothly despite a host of challenges will require keen oversight. Challenges include having a combat-coded unit assume the training mission with no assigned training--coded aircraft and smoothly transferring the recently modernized combat mobility training. (44) all of these events must occur in parallel with the AMP, RERP, and ongoing operations in iraq and Afghanistan.

Unlike earlier vignettes that showed success with the short-term MC rate, the C-5 FTU at Altus has experienced success with the long-term rate in an environment that parallels expeditionary operations. The 97th maintenance Directorate at Altus--the recent air Force mC rate champion--delivered rates of 70.4 and 73.3 percent for 2004 and 2005, respectively. (45) This unit overcame challenges applicable to expeditionary operations: a small number of assigned aircraft (eight of some of the oldest C-5as), a demanding training mission (multiple landings and/or air refuelings per sortie), and a lower parts-supply priority (force/activity designator code) than the rest of their C-5 brethren. (46) During the same period, the 97th flew dozens of sorties in support of Iraqi Freedom and recovery operations associated with hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Despite the FTU transfer from altus to Kelly, mentioned earlier, we still have an opportunity to capture and formalize the 97th's success. Spreading these near-wartime MC rates will not only boost Kelly's C-5 availability (by increasing the historic rates up to 20 percent) but also significantly lift air Force--wide availability of the Galaxy--regardless of the AMP and RERP. (47) Finally, as former secretary Rumsfeld stated, "We must transform ... the way we exercise and the way we fight" (see above); therefore, as the C-5 transforms its doctrine, expeditionary operational readiness inspections must continue to serve as the C-5 readiness training and evaluation tool.


Since the AMP and RERP are evolutionary materiel upgrades, intellectual modernization poses revolutionary proposals for a modernized C-5M. Could evolutions used in other airlifters--night vision devices or head-up displays--coupled with the RERP'squieter engines and 20 percent thrust increase constitute a revolution in itself by significantly enhancing the C-5M's global access? Other examples include reducing the C-5's aircrew complements (see the section on "Personnel," below), adding airdrop capability that incorporates the Joint Precision airdrop system, and improving ground maneuver by using ReRP engines to back up the C-5 (currently an emergency procedure). (48) Although these items certainly do not represent an extensive list, the potential for high payoff with minimum cost makes them possible topics for the air mobility Battle Lab. (49)

Leadership and Education

As the section on "Doctrine" recommended, intellectual modernization of the C-5 routinely deploys squadron commanders to lead expeditionary units. In the traditional C-5 stage, we forward-deploy stage managers and other specialists to help solve specific problems. These stovepipes of leadership include expediters (senior flight engineers who assist with aircraft-equipment waivers) and ramp supervisors. But we really need squadron commanders--people who not only manage, expedite, and supervise the mission but also standardize tactics, intelligence, and operations between downrange airfields; apply operational risk management; judiciously apply scarce resources (crews, maintenance, and aerial port); and, because they know their unit members better than nondeployed commanders, actually improve unit cohesion/morale. (50) In today's expeditionary and combat environment, forward-deployed squadron commanders provide much simpler decentralized execution than stage managers, expediters, and ramp supervisors. (The fact that the Air Force has institutionalized expeditionary operations into all of its force development eliminates the need for any educational recommendations.)


In a letter to Airmen, Secretary of the Air Force Wynne says that "we will look at innovative ways to use our materiel and personnel more efficiently." (51) As technology continues to reduce the pilot's preflight workload, the Air Force may look at reducing the C-5's crew complement by eliminating the third load-master position and the flight engineer. At the outset of Iraqi Freedom, C-5s routinely and safely operated on augmented duty days (or at maximum crew-duty period) with two loadmasters instead of the usual three. Using only two loadmasters should not require additional technology but would necessitate retraining. Like C-17 pilots, C-5 pilots could assume some of the ground duties for which current C-5 enlisted crew members (loadmasters and/or engineers) are responsible. This brings us to a second personnel recommendation--flight engineers.

Using technology available today, other aircraft (the civilian DC-10 to ,MD-11 conversion or the C-130J model) have replaced their flight-engineer position. Obviously, without redesigning the C-5, the air Force cannot eliminate the second flight engineer or "scanner" crew position. Nonetheless, we now have the technology to do without the C-5's flight engineer. In the environment of Air Force smart Operations 21, cost-effectiveness will dictate such changes.

 Thinking about airlift means thinking about
 combat.... Any activity that does not contribute
 to this philosophy, any attitude that does
 not reflect a preparation for the combat airlift
 mission, any doctrine that does not serve that
 end is suspect and dangerous.

 --Lt Col Charles E. Miller
 Airlift Doctrine

As mentioned earlier, the idea of forward-deploying the C-5 is older than the aircraft itself. Recent events--US military transformation, an expeditionary focus, and successful deployments of the C-5--suggest that we should revisit this concept. Intellectually modernizing the C-5 to make expeditionary deployments routine should occur even during mechanical upgrades of the AMP and RERP. Although we have always had concerns about the C-5's reliability, as several examples illustrate, maintainability and, ultimately, the aircraft's mission success can be affected as much by employment and/or training as by mechanical means. although this article's recommendations remain incomplete and subject to debate, they nonetheless offer a starting place for discussion about the expeditionary C-5, which we need if we wish to improve combat capability--today and tomorrow. Done right, a modernized and expeditionary C-5 may finally "revolutionize global mobility airlift," as former CINCMAC General Estes predicted in 1966. (52)

Editorial Abstract: Recalling a 41-year-old admonition to "revolutionize global mobility airlift," the author says that now is the time to begin such a revolution--and fulfill current efforts to "transform" the military--by routinely deploying the C-5 Galaxy in an expeditionary role. This article highlights the Galaxy's capabilities, counters negative claims about its reliability, and proposes changes in doctrine, organization, training, leadership, personnel, and facilities that will help modernize the aircraft (although it does not attempt a technical discussion of those facilities).


(1.) "Air and space doctrine is an accumulation of knowledge gained primarily from the study and analysis of experience, which may include actual combat or contingency operations, as well as experiments or exercises." Air Force Doctrine Document 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 November 2003, IX, AFDD_Page_HTML/Doctrine_Docs/afdd1.pdf.

(2.) Transformation Planning Guidance (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, April 2003), 1, mon+Nov+13+12:37:04+PsT+2006/siRsi/0/520/TPGfinal.pdf.

(3.) SrA J. G. Buzanowski, "Air Force Releases 2006 Posture statement," Air Force Print News, 2 March 2006,

(4.) JCIDS [Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System] Overview (Washington, DC: Joint staff, J-8 Capabilities and Acquisition Division, n.d.),

(5.) Lt Col Robert C. Owen, "The Airlift System: a Primer," Airpower Journal 9, no. 3 (Fall 1995): 25.

(6.) John A. Tirpak, "Saving the Galaxy," Air Force Magazine 87, no. 1 (January 2004): 35,

(7.) Briefing, Air Force Requirements Council, subject: air mobility Command Outsize and Oversize analysis of alternatives,

(2) December 1999; and Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington,DC:Department ofDefense, 6 February 2006), 54,

(8.) Dr. John W. Leland and Kathryn A. Wilcoxson, The Chronological History of the C-5 Galaxy (scott AFB, IL: history Office, air mobility Command, 2003), 1. The C-5 Galaxy was the world's largest and heaviest aircraft from its first flight in 1968 until 1982, when the soviet antonov an-124 captured this title. Like the C-141 starlifter, also manufactured by Lockheed aircraft Corporation, the C-5 has a high T-tail, a 25-degree wing sweep, and four turbofan engines.

(9.) For definitions of the terms palletized, oversized, and outsized cargo, see air mobility Command instruction 24-101, Transportation, 13 February 2004.

(10.) "The 463L Master Pallet system is the main device used for air transport by the United states Air Force. All cargo aircraft used by the [USAF] are configured to accept these pallets. Its dimensions are 88"W, 108"L, and 2 1/2"h. The usable space is 84 [inches] by 104 [inches]. It can hold up to 10,000 lb of cargo at 8 G's. The empty weight is 290 lb." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "463L Master Pallet,"

(11.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 1.

(12.) Kneeling (raising and lowering) the entire aircraft approximately three feet to accommodate loading/ unloading cargo and wheeled vehicles through its fullwidth opening front and rear doors is a feature unique to the C-5.

(13.) CMSgt Timothy Reuning, AMC/A3 7VG, interview by the author, 29 January 2004. Larger than a Boeing 747, the C-5 has 28 tires that help spread its weight. In fact at maximum gross weight, a C-5 has a lighter pavement classification number than a fully loaded C-141 or C-17.

(14.) "C-5 Galaxy," USAF fact sheet,

(15.) House, Statement Prepared for Delivery to the House Armed Services Committee by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, Washington, DC, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 23 June 2004,

(16.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 62.

(17.) Army Modernization Plan, 2003 (Washington, DC: Department of the army, 13 March 2003), annex D, D-17,

(18.) Lt Col Charles E. Miller, Airlift Doctrine (maxwell AFB, aL: air University Press, March 1988), 305,

(19.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 12.

(20.) Miller, Airlift Doctrine, 339.

(21.) Gen howell M. Estes Jr., "The Revolution in Airlift," Air University Review 17, no. 3 (March--April 1966): 15.

(22.) Gen howell M. Estes Jr., "Modern Combat Airlift," Air University Review 20, no. 6 (September--October 1969): 18, 1969/sep-oct/estes.html.

(23.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 13.

(24.) Capt Chris J. Krisinger, "Operation Nickel Grass: Airlift in support of National Policy," Airpower Journal 3, no. 1 (spring 1989): 27,; and Walter J. Boyne, "Nickel Grass," Air Force Magazine 81, no. 12 (December 1998),

(25.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 8--9.

(26.) Ibid., 14.

(27.) Briefing, Air Force Requirements Council.

(28.) Leland and Wilcoxson, Chronological History, 2.

(29.) Tirpak, "Saving the Galaxy," 31--35.

(30.) The Us Air Force's first air and space expeditionary force deployed in October 1995 to Southwest Asia. Lt Col michael J. Nowak, The Air Expeditionary Force: A Strategy for an Uncertain Future?, maxwell Paper no. 19 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air War College, August 1999), 10,

(31.) Briefing, Lt Col James A. Spaulding, commander, 715th ams, and author, to Air Force Council, Washington, DC, subject: C-5 expeditionary Operations, 12 December 2002.

(32.) Inscription, personal photo from James Roche, former secretary of the Air Force.

(33.) Rick sauder, "Entering A New Galaxy," Airlift/ Tanker Quarterly 11, no. 1 (Winter 2003): 13,

(34.) Air Force instruction (aFi) 11-289, Phoenix Banner, Silver, and Copper Operations, 16 February 2006,

(35.) Hard crews are a set of crew members who always fly together.

(36.) "Us Pony Express," The History Channel, 13 November 2003.

(37.) Adam J. Hebert, "Air Mobility's Never-ending surge," U.S. Air Force AIM Points, 7 September 2006,

(38.) According to AMC's "line assigned" aircrew data for 2002 and 2003, C-5 pilots average the highest number of temporary duty (TDY) days of all AMC pilots. C-5 copilots at Dover aFB, De, in 2003 averaged over 215 days TDY, beating all other AMC aircrew positions by over a month. Additionally, C-5 aircrew "weighted Averages" were the highest of all AMC's airlifters for those two years.

(39.) After mobilization of Air Force Reserve aircrews prior to iraqi Freedom (January--March 2003), the author, serving as deputy operations group commander at Travis AFB, CA, witnessed less than 10 percent of C-5 aircrews ever approaching the flying-hour limit of 330 hours in 90 days as specified in AFI 11-202, Flying Operations, vol. 3, General Flight Rules, 5 April 2006, 69, afi11-202v3/afi11-202v3.pdf.

(40.) Tsgt Chuck marsh, "C-17 Deployment Length, efficiency increase," U.S. Air Force AIM Points, 11 July 2006,

(41.) Gen T. Michael Moseley, to commanders of the major commands and deputy chiefs of staff, letter, 17 may 2006.

(42.) Gen John P. Jumper, "Combat Wing Organization," "Chief's sight Picture," 2002.

(43.) Ian Thompson, "Service Under Fire--Travis Crew Recalls Baghdad mission," Daily Republic, 21 January 2004,

(44.) Combat mobility training involves the merging of ancillary training, mission-qualification ground training, and tactics, which produces a near-mission-ready, expeditionary FTU graduate. Previously accomplished in-unit, as of 2006, 13 of these 15 events are now accomplished by the FTU at air education and Training Command. Other initiatives proposed but not in combat mobility training include training in night vision devices, airdrop, formation, and so forth.

(45.) See data from AMC's GO81/Broker aircraft maintenance system for the C-5, C-141, KC-135, KC-10, and C-17 aircraft. It also has provisions to accommodate other aircraft.

(46.) See Air Force Policy Directive 16-3, Operations Support, 26 January 1994,

(47.) GO81 data.

(48.) "Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS): advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD)," US Army Natick Soldier Center,

(49.) "Air Mobility Warfare Center," USAF fact sheet,

(50.) Former commander, C-17 EAS, to the author, e-mail, May 2003.

(51.) Hon. Michael W. Wynne, "Letter to Airmen: Air Force Smart Operations 21," 8 March 2006,

(52.) Estes, "Revolution in Airlift," 15.

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Author:Dillon, Mark C. "Marshal"
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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