Could the Airbus A380 really replace Lockheed’s C-5?

Steve Trimble reveals that the Airbus A380 is a potential candidate to replace not only Air Force One, but also US Air Force Lockheed C-5 outsize airlifters. While it is hard to imagine the President of the United States flying around in the flagship of European aerospace, it makes sense they would want competition when it comes to replacing the Boeing 747s now used.

But while the USAF may only have requested information from Airbus as part of its review of the potentially overbudget C-5 re-engining programme, the prospect of the A380 Freighter replacing the C-5s is much more intriguing.

C-5%20close%20small.jpg Boeing lost the C-5 competition to Lockheed in 1965, but used the acquired knowledge of large-aircraft design and high-bypass turbofans to launch development of the civil 747. The result was a monopoly of the “jumbo” market that lasted 37 years and officially ended only this month with the entry into airline service of the first A380.

Winning the C-5 competition almost bankrupted Lockheed. Losing the competition led Boeing to “bet the company” on developing the 747. The 747′s market monopoly led Airbus to develop the A380, which plunged the European airframer into financial and operational turmoil.

If the A380F really is in the frame to replace the C-5s, can Boeing respond by offering the 748-8F? Or does it have to protect and prolong the C-17 production line, and in doing so risk the C-5 competition all over again?

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5 Responses to Could the Airbus A380 really replace Lockheed’s C-5?

  1. jake 18 October, 2007 at 2:59 am #

    I remember back in the ’80s when the C-5B was up against the 747. Supposedly a critical difference was the C-5′s low loading level. Cargo that could be rolled on-off the C-5 needed to be lifted into the 747. How would the A380 be able to surmount that? The military will always favor a high-winged lifter (all other things being equal, of course)

  2. John Aislabie 18 October, 2007 at 2:57 pm #

    Lockheed ended up winning the CX competition (for the C-5) and therefore Boeing really had to be given the SST competition.

    This had the bizarre effect that Boeing’s chronically complicated and over-ambitious SST (from a company which had never made a supersonic aircraft) wasted masses of time and money. But meanwhile their rejected CX morphed into the 747 and allowed them to take the civil market anyway.

    Lockheed could have possibly made their SST design work although it was still very ambitious. But having been stuck with battling the many problems of building the C-5 , they entered the civil race somewhat later with the Tristar and never got ahead.

  3. OV-099 18 October, 2007 at 3:47 pm #

    Quote: “Cargo that could be rolled on-off the C-5 needed to be lifted into the 747. How would the A380 be able to surmount that? The military will always favor a high-winged lifter.”

    Airbus would be able to surmount that by making an A380 derivative which could carry outsize cargo.


    I propose a two-plane solution: A470 and A480

    First, integrate the cockpit section of the A400M with the upper front fuselage of the A380. The floor of the upper deck would be raised by at least 60cm. A new fuselage nose design would loosely be based on the nose design of the An-124 where the nose section is hinged to open upwards.

    The difference between an A480 and the interrupted A380-800F would be:

    (i) The capabillity for the A480M to carry industry standard 300cm (118in)-high pallets on the whole of the main deck. Unlike the 747-8F, an A480 would be able to front-load/unload 300cm-high pallets. The 787-8F can only front-load/unload 244cm (96in) pallets.

    (ii) An upper deck which could carry the same pallets and containers as the lower deck in addition to new 180cm-high containers contoured properly.

    Apart from these differences, the A480M would retain the lower fuselage design, wing, MLG and empennage section from the A380.

    Now, as for the proposed A470, only the upper fuselage design and cockpit section would retain commonality with the A480.

    In the same way as the A400M has retained the circular 222in cross section of the A300 in the upper fuselage, but with a new flattened underside, the A470 would retain the upper fuselage of the A480, but would have a flattened underside. The floor of the main deck would be lowered by about 130cm. The A470 would be high-winged and have a MLG design similar to the An-124. The top half of the hinged nose of the A470 and A480 would be similar in design around the A400M-derived cockpit section.

  4. The Woracle 21 October, 2007 at 12:20 am #

    I think Airbus should finish the A400M first…

  5. The Woracle 21 October, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    The only way I can imagine that experience from the C-5 competition would not influence the 747 design was if Boeing shot all the engineers and burned all their reports…it is a practice that would certainly make the current WTO dispute more clear cut.

    But this is what Joe Sutter says in response to Boeing’s Randy Baseler:

    R: While we’re on the freight subject, I think there’s a common misperception that the 747 originally came out of the competition for the C-5 military transport.

    J: Of all the commentary thrown at me, that’s the one that I dislike the most, because there’s no truth to it. The only thing that the 747 got out of the C-5 was the development of the high-bypass ratio engine. And we couldn’t even use the engine developed for the C-5, because it’s a high-winged, cumbersome, slow airplane. That engine didn’t have enough power to fly the .85 Mach number of the 747. It was a different manufacturer’s engine that was developed for the 747. So the concept of the high-bypass ratio engine was developed from the C-5, but that’s the only thing the C-5 gave to the 747.

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