The US Air Force (USAF) has declared initial operating capability (IOC) for its Lockheed Martin C-5M Galaxy strategic airlifter following a successful Qualification Test, Operational Test and Evaluation, and delivery of the 16th aircraft, the service announced on 21 February.
For IOC, initial spare equipment and parts had to be available in the base supply system at Dover Air Force Base (AFB) in Delaware, as well as spares at some forward supply locations. Support equipment, test, measurement and diagnostic equipment were also required to be in place at Dover AFB, at key en-route locations, and depot repair facilities, the air force said.
With delivery of the 16th aircraft to the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover AFB, the base is now waiting on its final two aircraft to bring it up to full strength. Declaration of IOC comes some four years after the USAF pronounced the C-5M to be "effective, suitable and mission capable".
The C-5M, termed the 'Super Galaxy' by Lockheed Martin, is the result of a two-phase modernisation programme that includes both the Avionics Modernisation Programme (AMP), and the ongoing Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Programme (RERP).
AMP involves fitting a new mission computer, a digital 'glass' cockpit, autopilot and a modern communications, navigation and surveillance suite for air-traffic management. The AMP phase was completed in April 2012, when the 79th C-5A/B/C aircraft to go through the upgrade was handed over at Travis Air Force Base (AFB) in California.
The RERP phase involves replacing the aircraft's four General Electric (GE) TF39-GE-1C turbofans with new GE CF6-80C2 commercial engines (military designation F108-GE-100) to give the upgraded C-5 40,000 lb of additional thrust (the equivalent of fitting a fifth engine), and 70 other enhancements or replacements of major components and subsystems.
The modernisation programme is designed to improve the fleet mission capability rate as well as the overall reliability and maintainability of the aircraft while reducing total ownership costs. According to Lockheed Martin, the C-5 modernisation is expected to pay for itself through operational savings over the course of the aircraft's 30-year service life.
The Galaxy is the only aircraft in the USAF's inventory that is capable of carrying 100% of the US military's certified air-transportable cargo and, with more than 70% of its structural service life remaining, the C-5M is expected to remain in service until 2040.
The USAF's total C-5 fleet changes monthly based on congressional approval of C-5A retirements, but according to IHS Jane's World Air Forces there are currently 37 C-5A, 32 C-5B, and two C-5C aircraft in the inventory, in addition to the 16 C-5Ms now delivered. Current USAF plans call for the C-5A/B/C fleets to be replaced by 52 fully modernised C-5Ms by 2017.