|New C-17s Not Needed, DOD Analysis Shows|
May 18, 2009
By Amy Butler
Early indications from the Pentagon’s Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study suggest no need for additional strategic airlift beyond the funded procurements of re-engined C-5s and 205 C-17s already planned, says U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.
The 2005 Mobility Capabilities Study had suggested a requirement of roughly 300 strategic airlifters, and Schwartz says he sees “no major shift in the demand signal.” The 2005 study, however, was discredited in much of Washington as a budget-driven formality under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and a new study has been eagerly awaited.
The new study is now under way, although official results are not expected until the fall. Unlike previous reviews, this study will take into account the requirements associated with increases in Army and Marine Corps end-strength, as well as the new U.S. Africa Command.
Even if more strategic airlift is ultimately needed, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley says an independent study presents several options before considering a buy of additional C-17s, the only aircraft made at Boeing’s Long Beach, Calif., plant.
These include leasing additional Civil Reserve Air Fleet capacity, as well as re-engining all 111 C-5s. Now, the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP) calls for modifying only 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs and one A model for test purposes.
Boeing’s C-17 program has survived in recent years on congressional earmarks and international orders. The USAF also has nonetheless wished to retire its worst C-5s.
Meanwhile, the first C-5 of the 46 to be inducted into the M-model upgrade production line is slated to arrive at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., facility in August with delivery following a year later.
This single C-5 will make up the low-rate-initial-production phase of the C-5M RERP upgrade program. The M upgrade includes a new propulsion system as well as improvements to several bad actors on the aircraft, including hydraulics and landing gear, says Lorraine Martin, vice president of the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program for prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
Three C-5s were modified with the M upgrade during the development phase of the program; two were C-5Bs and one was a C-5A.
Operational test and evaluation for the C-5M is slated to begin in September, lasting at least three months. The C-5M includes the General Electric CF6-80C2 engine, which Martin says provides 22 percent more thrust per aircraft. The C-5M can climb to 31,000-feet altitude in 19 minutes carrying 120,000 pounds of cargo compared to the C-5A/B’s 33 minutes to climb to 24,000 feet, Martin says.
Aside from the performance, Lockheed Martin is making some predictions related to the cost of the program. Reduced maintenance of the newer propulsion systems and replacement of the bad parts on the C-5 will “save” $9 billion over the life of the aircraft in the cost of operations and sustainment, Martin says. This is after the $6 billion cost to procure and install the kits, she says.
It is unknown whether shutting down the F-22 line in Marietta, Ga., where the C-5 work is handled by Lockheed, will impact the cost of the RERP effort.
The operational test and evaluation is expected to begin in September and last up to four months.