THE US Air Force has pulled the plug on the long-standing scheme to re-engine its entire fleet of C-5 Galaxy airlifters and convert them to C-5M versions. The ‘M’ suffix signifies ‘modernised’.
Under the reliability enhancement and re-engining programme (RERP), antiquated General Electric TF39-GE-1C turbofan engines, which are costly to maintain and supply, are being replaced by new, General Electric CF6^0C2 engines. Air Force leaders badly wanted to put new engines on all Galaxys; the decision will force them to operate a fleet of C-5s with two engine types.
In November 2007, a quarterly Pentagon report confirmed what many had considered obvious for some time. The effort to re-engine the C-5 fleet was behind schedule and had increased in cost by almost 55%, from $11.3 to $17.5 billion.
Lockheed manufactured 126 Galaxy transports: 81 C-5 As built between June 1968 and May 1973, and 50 C-5Bs built between April 1982 and January 1989. Included in the total built were two C-5As which were later modified to C-5C standard for hauling space items.
By the time the RERP programme began in 2003, the overall C-5 fleet had dropped by 14 to 112 aircraft (60 C-5A, 50 C-5B and two C-5C). The reduction was the result of four C-5A crashes, plus the retirement of the «worst players» among the C-5A cohort.
The numbers changed again on April 3, 2006, when the Air Force suffered its only C-5B crash.
The RERP programme took to the air when former C-5B 86-0013 made its first flight as a re-engined C-5M on June 19, 2006. The second and third C-5Ms are now flying: former C-5B 86-0025 and former C-5A 69-0024. The latter will now be the only current C-5A to be converted to C-5M status.
The Galaxy inventor)’ is now 111 aircraft (59 C-5A, 47 C-5B, 2 C-5C, 3 C-5M). The RERP programme had been intended for all, but will now apply to only 52 aircraft (one C-5 A already converted, two C-5Bs already converted, 47 more C-5Bs, and two C-5C).
Under the new decision, the Air Force will still be able to keep all 111 Galaxys in service. A separate avionics modernisation programme, or AMP, less controversial than RERP — although also behind schedule and over-budget — will be applied to the entire Galaxy fleet.