The C-5M Super Galaxy strategic transport aircraft is a modernised version of the legacy C-5. Credit: Lockheed Martin.
The C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft has a length of 75.53m, height of 19.84m and wingspan of 67.91m. Credit: Lockheed Martin.
The C-5M Super Galaxy can carry more air-transportable cargo than the C-5 aircraft. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

The C-5M Super Galaxy strategic transport aircraft, a modernised version of the legacy C-5, was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin to extend the capability of the C-5 Galaxy fleet to remain in service at least until 2040. The C-5M aircraft is operated by the US Air Force (USAF).

The USAF initiated a two-phase upgrade programme to transform the C-5 aircraft fleet into the C-5M Super Galaxy. Under the programme, Lockheed Martin modernised 52 C-5 aircraft, including 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs and one C-5A by 2017. The company delivered 16 C-5M aircraft by December 2013.

The C-5M Super Galaxy transport aircraft achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in February 2014. The aircraft set 89 world aeronautical records to date.

The 433rd Airlift Wing’s C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft was exhibited at the Stars and Stripes Air Show in Texas, US, in February 2020.

Details of the C-5 Galaxy modernisation programme

The C-5 Galaxy was modernised in two phases involving the avionics modernisation programme (AMP), and reliability enhancement and re-engining programme (RERP). Lockheed Martin secured a $454m contract for the first phase of the upgrade in January 1999. The AMP is aimed at upgrading the cockpit of the C-5 fleet.

The contract for the second phase was awarded in December 2001. It includes the installation of new engines, pylons, thrust reversers and wing attachment fittings to the C-5 Galaxy aircraft. The first C-5 aircraft upgraded as part of AMP completed its maiden flight in December 2002 and was delivered to the USAF in October 2004. The second phase began in October 2004 was concluded in May 2006, renaming the modernised aircraft C-5M Super Galaxy.

The first of the three C-5M test aircraft performed a maiden flight in June 2006 and was delivered to the USAF for operational testing and evaluation in December 2008. The second and third aircraft completed their first flights in November 2006 and March 2007 respectively.

The USAF approved the upgrade of 49 additional aircraft, including 47 C-5Bs and two C-5Cs, under the RERP in February 2008.

In February 2009, Lockheed Martin secured a $299m RERP contract to produce nine C-5Ms. The company was also awarded a $25m Interim Contractor Support (ICS) contract for the familiarisation and operational testing and evaluation of the C-5M.

The low-rate initial production of the first C-5M transport aircraft was commenced in August 2009. The test aircraft piloted by a joint USAF and Lockheed Martin flight crew in September 2009 set 41 world aeronautical records in one flight.

The maiden flight of the first C-5M production aircraft took place in September 2010, and the operational testing and evaluation were completed in October 2010. Joint acceptance flight by the USAF and Lockheed Martin was concluded in October 2012.

The third C-5M production aircraft made its first flight in July 2011 and was delivered to the USAF in August 2011. The USAF took delivery of the 52nd and final C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft in August 2018. All 52 aircraft are operational with the Air Mobility Command and Air Force Reserve Command units.

C-5M Super Galaxy features

The C-5M Super Galaxy transport aircraft offers greater reliability and efficient performance at reduced operating and lifecycle costs. It integrates more than 70 enhancements and requires reduced maintenance per flight hour.

The aircraft has a length of 75.53m, a height of 19.84m and a wingspan of 67.91m. The operating and maximum take-off weights of the aircraft are 181,437kg and 381,018kg respectively. The aircraft has a fuel capacity of 150,819kg and payload-carrying capacity of 129,274kg.

The aircraft is equipped with five sets of landing gears with a total of 28 wheels.

Cockpit and cargo compartment of C-5 Galaxy

The advanced glass cockpit integrates a multimode communications suite, a mission computer, enhanced navigation radios, digital autopilot, multifunctional display units, flight management system, safety equipment and surveillance components. It is also fitted with built-in controls and diagnostic systems for the identification of maintenance requirements.

The cockpit also features integrated data link capabilities and situational awareness displays, as well as provides predictive flight performance cues and improved situational awareness to the crew.

The C-5M Super Galaxy can carry more air-transportable cargo than the C-5 aircraft and be loaded with cargo quickly and efficiently. The dedicated passenger compartment of the aircraft accommodates troops and their supplies.

Engine and performance of C-5M Super Galaxy

The C-5M Super Galaxy transport aircraft is powered by four GE CF6-80C2 turbofan engines each developing a thrust of 50,580lb. The length and diameter of the engine are 4.26m and 2.69m respectively. The dry weight of the engine is 9,860lb. The engines comply with Stage 4 noise and emission and provide the aircraft with 22% more thrust and 58% higher rate of climb.

The aircraft can fly at a normal cruise speed of 0.77 Mach. It has an un-refuelled range of about 4,800nm with 54,430kg of cargo, as well as 7,000nm with no load.