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C-5 A/B/C Galaxy and C-5M Super Galaxy

C-5M Super Galaxy

The C-5M Super Galaxy is a strategic transport aircraft and is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory. Its primary mission is to transport cargo and personnel for the Department of Defense. The
C-5M is a modernized version of the legacy C-5 designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Currently the U.S. Air Force owns and operates 52 C-5B/C/M. They are stationed at Dover AFB, Delaware; Travis AFB, California; Lackland AFB, Texas; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. 


The C-5M Super Galaxy is equipped with five sets of landing gear, 28 wheels, four General Electric CF6-80C2-L1F (F-138) commercial engines, and a state of the art maintenance diagnostics system.

It can carry oversized cargo over intercontinental ranges and can take off and land on relatively short runways. Both the nose and aft doors open, allowing ground crews to simultaneously load and off-load cargo from both ends, reducing cargo transfer times. The full-width drive-on ramps at each end enable double rows of vehicles to be transported.

The maintenance diagnostics system has the ability to record and analyze data from more than 7,000 test points, reducing maintenance and repair time.

The C-5M, with a cargo load of 281,001 pounds (127,460 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.


Lockheed-Georgia Co. delivered the first operational C-5A Galaxy to the 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, South Carolina, in June 1970. 

In March 1989, the last 50 C-5Bs was delivered, adding to the already existing 76 C-5As in the Air Force's airlift inventory. The C-5B included more than 100 additional system modifications to improve reliability and maintainability. Additionally, in fiscal year 1989, two space cargo modified (SCM) C-5Cs were delivered. The modification included removing the troop compartment, redesigning the aft pressure door and bulkhead, and widening the aft doors so the aircraft could carry the space shuttle’s large cargo container. The two SCM C-5Cs were assigned to Travis AFB, CA.

Based on a study showing 80 percent of the C-5 airframe service life remaining, Air Mobility Command began an aggressive program to modernize the C-5s in 1998. The C-5 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) included upgrading the avionics to improve communications, as well as upgrading the navigation, surveillance & air traffic management systems to maintain compliance with national and international airspace requirements. It also added new safety equipment and installed a new autopilot system.

Another part of the C-5 modernization plan was a comprehensive Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program (RERP). The last of the Air Force’s 52 C-5s are scheduled to complete the RERP modification in fiscal year 2018. The rest of the C-5 fleet entered retirement by September 2017.

The C-5 aircraft engines were upgraded from four General Electric TF-39 engines to General Electric CF6-80C2-L1F (F-138) commercial engines. This engine delivers a 22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter take-off roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate, and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances. With its new engines and other system upgrades, the RERP modified C-5A/B/Cs became C-5M Super Galaxies.

This modernization program also made the C-5 fleet quieter (Federal Aviation Administration Stage 4 Compliant), enhanced aircraft reliability, maintainability, maintained structural and system integrity, reduced cost of ownership and increased operational capability well into the 21st century.

Looking to the future, modernization efforts include incorporating advanced weather radar, mission computing, communication systems, and air traffic management to meet FAA mandates and survivability in theater.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Outsize cargo transport

Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin-Georgia Co.

Power Plant: Four F-138-GE100 General Electric engines

Thrust: 51,250 pounds per engine  

Wingspan: 222 feet 9 inches (67.89 meters)

Length: 247 feet 10 inches (75.3 meters)

Height: 65 feet 1 inch (19.84 meters)

Cargo Compartment:

Height, 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 meters)

Width, 19 feet (5.79 meters)

Length, 143 feet, 9 inches (43.8 meters)

Pallet Positions: 36

Maximum Cargo: 281,001 pounds (127,460 Kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 840,000 pounds (381,024 kilograms)

Speed: 518 mph

Unrefueled Range of C-5M: Approximately 5,524 statute miles (4,800 nautical miles) with 120,000 pounds of cargo; approximately 7,000 nautical miles with no cargo on board.

Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and three loadmasters

(Current as of January 2023)