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C-5A “Galaxy”

C-5A “Galaxy”



  • Primary Function: Outsize cargo transport

  • Prime Contractor: Lockheed-Georgia Co. 

  • Power Plant: Four General Electric TF-39 engines
    (C-5A,B,C)/ Four F-138 General Electric engines

  • Thrust: 43,000 lbs, each engine (C-5A,B,C)/ 51,250 lbs, each engine (C-5M) 

  • Wingspan: 222 ft. 9 in. (67.89 meters

  • Length: 247 ft. 1 in. (75.3 meters

  • Height: 65 ft. 1 in. (19.84 meters

  • Cargo Compartment: 
    - Height, 13 ft. 6 in. (
    4.11 meters
    - Width, 19 ft. (
    5.79 meters
    - Length, 143 ft., 9 in. (
    43.8 meters

  • Pallet Positions: 36 

  • Maximum Cargo: 270,000 lbs (122,472 kilograms

  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 840,000 lbs (381,024 kilograms

  • Speed: 518 mph 

  • Unrefueled Range of C-5M: About 4,800 nautical miles, e.g., Dover AFB, Del., to Incirlik AB, Turkey, with 120,000 lbs (wartime planned load) of cargo. About 7,000 nautical miles with no cargo on board. 

  • Crew: Seven (pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and three loadmasters

  • Fly Away Unit Cost: C-5A--$152.8 million (fiscal 1998 constant dollars); C-5B--$179 million (fiscal 1998 constant dollars); C-5C (Space Cargo Modification)--$88 million (fiscal 1998 constant dollars); C-5M (RERP Modification)--$90 million (fiscal 2009 constant dollars

  • Deployed: C-5A in 1970; C-5B in 1986; C-5C in 1988; C-5M in 2009 

  • Inventory: Total C-5 fleet changes monthly based on congressional approval of C-5A retirements; 52 C-5Ms are scheduled to be in the inventory by fiscal 2017; 16 C-5Ms have been delivered through December 2013.


The C-5 "Galaxy" is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air Force inventory. The aircraft can carry a fully equipped combat-ready military unit to any point in the world on short notice and then provide the supplies required to help sustain the fighting force. 

The C-5 has a greater capacity than any other airlifter. It has the ability to carry 36 standard pallets and 81 troops simultaneously. The Galaxy is also capable of carrying any of the Army's air-transportable combat equipment, including such bulky items as the 74-ton mobile scissors bridge


It can also carry outsize and oversize cargo over intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances. Ground crews are able to load and off-load the C-5 simultaneously at the front and rear cargo openings, reducing cargo transfer times.

View from the flight deck of C-5A, all the way down to the ramp.

View from the flight deck of C-5A, all the way down to the ramp.

Other features of the C-5 include: 


  • Able to operate on runways 6,000 feet long (1,829 meters)

  • Five sets of landing gear totaling 28 wheels to distribute weight

  • Nose and aft doors that open the full width and height of the cargo compartment to permit faster and easier loading•  

  • A "kneeling" landing gear system that permits lowering the parked aircraft to facilitate drive-on/drive-off vehicle loading and adjusts the cargo floor to standard truck-bed height

  • Full-width drive-on ramps at each end for loading double rows of vehicles

  • A maintenance diagnostics system that records and analyzes data from more than 800 (C-5A) and 7000 (C-5M) test points, reducing maintenance/repair time.

The C-5 has the distinctive high T-tail, 25-degree wing sweep, and four turbofan engines mounted on pylons beneath the wings. 

The C-5 has 12 internal wing tanks with a total capacity of 51,150 gallons (194,370 liters) of fuel — enough to fill 6 1/2 regular-size railroad tank cars. A full fuel load weighs 332,500 pounds (150,820 kilograms). A C-5 with a cargo load of 270,000 pounds (122,472 kilograms) can fly 2,150 nautical miles, offload, and fly to a second base 500 nautical miles away from the original destination — all without aerial refueling. With aerial refueling, the aircraft's range is limited only by crew endurance. 

The Heritage Center's C-5A Lands at Travis Air Force Base

The Heritage Center's C-5A Lands at Travis Air Force Base


Lockheed-Georgia Co. delivered the first operational Galaxy to the 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, now known as Joint Base Charleston, S.C., in June l970. C-5s are operated by active-duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard crews. They are currently stationed at Dover AFB, Del.; Travis AFB, Calif.; Lackland AFB, Texas; Martinsburg ANGB, W.Va. and Westover ARB, Mass. 

In March 1989, the last of 50 C-5Bs was added to the 76 C-5As in the Air Force's airlift force structure. The C-5B includes all C-5A improvements as well as more than 100 additional system modifications to improve reliability and maintainability. 

Based on a study showing 80 percent of the C-5 airframe service life remaining, AMC began an aggressive program to modernize the C-5 in 1998. The C-5 Avionics Modernization Program included upgrading the avionics to improve communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance. The upgrade also added new safety equipment and installed a new autopilot system. 

Another part of the C-5 modernization plan is a comprehensive Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP). Fifty-two C-5s (1A, 2C's, and 49B's) are scheduled to receive the RERP modification by fiscal 2017. The centerpiece of this program is the General Electric CF6-80C2 (F-138) commercial engine. This engine delivers a 22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter take-off roll, has a 58 percent faster climb rate and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances. With its new engine and other system upgrades, the RERP modified C-5A/B/Cs become C-5Ms, Super Galaxy. This modernization program will make the C-5 much quieter (FAA Stage 4 Compliant) and enhance aircraft reliability and maintainability, maintain structural and system integrity, reduce cost of ownership and increase operational capability well into the 21st century. 

In fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2011, Congress authorized the retirement of 46 C-5As. In fiscal 2006, one C-5B crashed at Dover AFB, Del., and was not repairable. (In fiscal 2013 Congress authorized an additional 27 C-5A retirements, one of which has retired. The remaining 26 aircraft will retire between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015.) The current resulting fleet size from these events is 78, i.e., 26 C-5As and 52 C5B/C/M. 

The Heritage Center's C-5A Galaxy is here - blocked in after its final flight from Westover.

The Heritage Center's C-5A "Galaxy" is here - blocked in after its final flight from Westover.

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