Air Force Hopes To Return Galaxies To Service

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Following the 2011 Budget Control Act, better known as the bill requiring “sequestration,” the U.S. Air Force put eight of its newly upgraded C-5M Galaxy strategic airlifters into backup aircraft inventory—a highly ready but non-flying status—in order to keep operational costs under control, but Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told Congress earlier this week that the force wants to reactivate them. “We’re going to buy back two a year for four years,” Lt. Gen Harris told the House Subcommittee, assuming Congress provides the necessary funding.

The C-5 is the U.S. military’s most expensive airlifter per flight hour, which, in part, drove the decision to keep the C-5s on the ground in the early part of the decade. Although not an exact measure of operating costs, the U.S. Air Force’s 2016 reimbursement rate for non-federal use of the C-5M was almost $31,000 per flight hour. The smaller and newer C-17 Globemaster gets billed to non-federal users at $16,400 per flight hour. By maximum takeoff weight, the C-5 is about 45% larger than the C-17 allowing either a significant increase in payload or significant increase in range over the Air Force’s primary strategic airlifter. Although costly, under certain scenarios, the ability of the C-5 to fly nonstop from Travis Air Force Base in California to Japan significantly shortens the time to deploy particularly heavy equipment and necessary personnel to an Asian conflict.

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