The US Air Force has some big decisions to make soon about strategic airlifters. The backlog for the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III runs dry in 2014. That year also is the current expiration date for the Lockheed Martin C-5M programme, which is converting about 50 C-5B models to the re-engined and more reliable M-model configuration.
Perhaps sensing little immediate enthusiasm by the USAF to buy yet more strategic airlifters, Boeing and Lockheed are seeking to extend those products as long as possible. Boeing is working on collecting even more foreign orders for the C-17A. Meanwhile, Lockheed has some new ideas for preserving the life of the C-5M production line.
For Lockheed, the solution may lie in the commercial market, said Jim Grant, vice president for air mobility. The USAF plans to retire between 22 and 32 C-5As within the next two years. Lockheed is proposing to offer these aircraft to either allies or commercial freighter companies.
The Antonov An-124 has proven a market exists for a C-5-sized airlifter to move heavy and out-size cargo. The USAF, in fact, is one of the An-124 operator Volga-Dnepr’s biggest customers. The C-5A is likely far more expensive to operate than the An-124, but Grant has a possible solution. The C-5A could be modified to the M-configuration, which includes installing four new General Electric CF6-80C2 turbofans. That upgrade will make the C-5 competitive on price with other outsize cargo freighters in the commercial market, he said.
In 2015, the cost to build and install the C-5M upgrades will be about $100 million per aircraft. The USAF has estimated the C-5A airframe will be viable through about 2030. Compare that to the cost of a new Boeing 747-8F, which is currently about $319.3 million for a 30- to 40-year airframe. Buying new An-124s would likely be cheaper, but is a non-starter for US-based freighter companies.
Grant’s commercialization strategy also happens to serve the dual purpose of keeping Lockheed’s reliability enhancement and reengining programme (RERP) for the C-5 going for perhaps one or two more years. Perhaps then the USAF may consider upgrading the last 30 or 40 remaining C-5As, which at that point will have about 10 years of service life left.
Converting US military airlifters into commercial freighters is no sure bet. The BC-17 concept was marketed aggressively by the USAF and Boeing for a decade, but was essentially dead on arrival. Lockheed had more success converting the C-130 into the L-100 for the commercial aircraft, but its success was marginal compared to the military programme. Over 30 years, Lockheed delivered only 114 L-100s.
Lockheed pitches retired C-5As to commercial market
By Stephen Trimble on 28 September, 2011 in Uncategorised
About Stephen Trimble
Cookies & Privacy
A400M Airbus Airbus Military B-2 BAE Systems Boeing C-17 C-130 CSAR-X Dassault EADS North America Embraer Eurofighter F-15 F-16 F-22 F-35 F/A-18 Gripen J-20 Joint Strike Fighter JSF KC-45 KC-767 KC-X Lockheed Martin Northrop Grumman PAK FA RAF Rafale Raytheon RQ-170 Saab Sikorsky Skunk Works stealth SU-35 Sukhoi tanker Typhoon UAS UAV USAF US Air Force V-22