Why the C-5 Galaxy is Unneeded in the Modern Era of Aviation



By 1961, the Douglas C-133 was starting to show its age. With the much more capable Lockheed C-141 Starlifter beginning service soon, it was illogical to continue the program. This started the CX-HLS or Heavy Logistics System. This is where the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy was born. 

The C-5 Galaxy is now one of the two cargo jets currently used by the US Air Force. The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is not necessary in the age of newer cargo jets, such as the C-17 Globemaster III. The C-5 is majorly inefficient and very expensive to fly. It was almost canceled numerous times and has been over 1,000,000,000 USD over budget. The C-5 currently costs over 75,000USD an hour to operate, compared to the C-17’s cost of less than 20,000USD an hour. After multiple crashes and airframe issues, it still continues to remain in service and recently was refitted to last until 2040. 

The C-5 has a max cargo weight of 86,000 compared to the C-17’s 73,000 kg weight. With the C-5’s hourly cost of 75,000 USD and the C-17’s of 20,000, you can get the cost per kilogram per hour, which is an easy way to compare costs. The C-5 has a cost/kilogram of .87 USD/kg/hour while the C-17 has a much cheaper cost/kg of .27 USD/kg/hour.

 We can take these results and factor in the speed of the aircraft to get the Price/ton/kilometer. The C-5 has a max speed at a max weight of 917.326kmh(570mph). The C-17 has a max speed at a max weight of 949.513kmh(590mph). It takes 3.9 seconds for the C-5 to go 1 kilometer and takes the C-17 3.8 seconds. This makes the final cost/ton/mile for the C-17 at 21 USD and 79 USD for the C-5. 

Lockheed has had many development issues with the C-5 and with its high cost for flight and maintenance, it is unneeded. The C-17 is one-fourth of the price but the C-5 will have to remain in service. In high-risk situations, you want redundancy, and even better, dissimilar redundancy. If a fatal flaw were to be found on the C-17, you would need something to take its place, and that would be the C-5.