Lockheed Martin has begun critical design reviews of the C-5 reliability enhancement and re-engining programme (RERP), as the USAir Force launches a review of the viability of its fleet of older C-5As. Both C-5As and newer C-5Bs are being updated under the avionics modernisation programme (AMP), but a decision on re-engining the As with the same General Electric CF6-80C2s planned for the Bs has yet to be taken.

While US Air Force secretary James Roche believes the review will conclude the C-5As are too costly to keep in service, Lockheed Martin argues the A and B fleets will be viable until 2040 after completion of the AMP and RERP upgrades.

If the As and Bs go through both updates they will come out as C-5Ms with essentially the same capability and life expectancy, says June Shrewsbury, vice-president of strategic airlift. The upgrade to C-5M standard will cost $55-60 million compared with $200 million for a new Boeing C-17, she says.

Demonstrating that the upgraded A has performance comparable to the upgraded B will be critical to deciding whether the older fleet gets the engine and system enhancements planned for the newer model, says Shrewsbury. Three aircraft - one A and two Bs - will be modified under the $1.1 billion RERP system development and demonstration contract awarded in late 2001, but plans call for the Bs to be re-engined between 2007 and 2011, before work starts on the As.

Lockheed Martin has begun final system integration on the two test aircraft - one A and one B - to be upgraded under the C-5 AMP. Production installations are scheduled to begin in mid-2004.

Source: Flight International