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.