GAO calculates C-17s vs C-5s tradeoff

The GAO weighed in on Friday on the C-17 vs. C-5 debate. The report says:

Additional investments in C-17 aircraft may become moreattractive. Currently, a new C-17 would cost about $276 million compared to$132 million to fully modernize a C-5. Each new C-17 potentially adds 100percent of its cargo capacity toward meeting the total airlift requirement.Because the C-5s are already part of the operational force, each aircraft’scurrent capacity is already counted toward the total requirement. Consequently,according to DOD data, the C-5 modernization programs only provide a marginalincrease of 14 percent in capability over nonmodernized aircraft. Using DOD’smillion ton-mile per day planning factors, we, working in collaboration withDOD, calculated that DOD would need to fully modernize 7 C-5s to attain theequivalent capability achieved from acquiring 1 additional C-17 and the costswould be over 3 times more.

So, all things being equal, DOD can spend either $276 million on one more C-17 or $924 million on one more C-5M. I’m not an accountant, but I’m thinking the C-17 wins the ROI argument — assuming DOD needs to buy more strategic airlift capacity in the first place.

Stay tuned from the response from the folks in Marietta, Georgia. I’m guessing they disagree with the GAO on this one.


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5 Responses to GAO calculates C-17s vs C-5s tradeoff

  1. ELP 23 November, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    The problem is that the C-17 isn’t just a little C-5 in the important ways… just as a C-5 does not have tactical airlift skills like the C-17. All of the B model C-5s should be upgraded to M config. Why? Large kinds of cargo can not fit in a C-17. The C-17 is not a heavy airlifter. It is a large tactical airlifter.

  2. Mike 24 November, 2008 at 9:58 pm #

    I think we should consider long and hard before sinking billions of dollars into 40 year old aircraft.

    If we’re going to fight wars in places like Afghanistan, I suspect Chinooks need to be flown into theater. Can 747′s be leased on an as-needed basis for jobs like that?

    Can a 747 handle an M1 tank? If yes, then let’s retire the C5 fleet. If not, then like it or not we need to maintain a C5 type capability. And if really do need it, we should build new C5′s, not upgrade ancient old planes.

  3. apwillie12 25 November, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    Large kinds of cargo can not fit in a C-17??????? ” ELP” have you ever been on a C-17? Do you not consider a 60,000 lb M-1 Abrams tank, a full size motor home, or mabye a 80,000 lb Navy submarine “Large Kinds of Cargo.” What about a CH-47??? The C-17 is a Strategic airlifter with a tactical capability. The C-5, when it works, is a great strategic airlifter. However, we need more C-17s not an upgraded 40 year old airplane. By the time you get a C-5 to actually takeoff, 5 C-17s are already in the air.

  4. irtusk 25 November, 2008 at 10:19 pm #

    how can you do an economic analysis and COMPLETELY IGNORE the savings the C-5M program generates?

    completely disingenuous

    my posting on keypub

    they make 2 extremely ignorant assumptions:
    1. the cost of the upgrades represents the total cost
    2. non-upgraded C-5s will continue to operate for 40 years, albeit at a lower readiness rate

    1. they just look at the cost of the upgrades and they COMPLETELY IGNORE the savings

    the current estimate is that doing the C-5M program will result in savings on maintenance and fuel of $14 billion

    if all C-5s were modernized, the current cost estimate is $16.5 billion

    so the NET cost of the program is only $2.5 billion, or $22.5 million per plane, NOT $148 million

    see why that GAO report is garbage?

    plugging it into the same analysis they did (7 C-5M upgrades = 1 C-17) shows that the C-5M program is $157.5 million per C-17 equivalent, a savings of $118.5 million per C-17 equivalent

    2. the C-5s are getting older, especially their engines and avionics

    if modernization is not done, maintenance costs will continue to increase to the point where the USAF decides they cost too much to maintain and mothballs them

    which again destroys a critical assumption in the GAO report that the current fleet will run another 40 years without modernization

    will never happen

    if the $148 million upgrade cost (which we’ve already seen is fallacious) is looked at as merely a slight difference in readiness rate, then yeah, maybe you can argue against it

    but the more realistic scenario is that the $148 million is the difference between a high-readiness C-5 and no C-5 at all

    and to gain the capability of a C-5 for $148 million (really $22.5 million) is AN ABSOLUTE STEAL

  5. pozycjonowanie katowice 28 June, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

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