Lockheed Martin and Boeing are awaiting the release of the US Department of Defense's Mobility Requirements Study 2005 (MRS05) which, it is hoped, will clear the way to start the C-5B Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Programme (RERP) and additional C-17 orders.

MRS05 is slated for release around the middle of this month after several delays. The report is expected to validate an identified 8 million tonne-km shortfall in airlift capability, half of which Lockheed Martin claims can be met by upgrading the US Air Force's 126 C-5A/B Galaxys with General Electric CF6-80C2 engines.

The USAF is waiting on MRS05 before awarding Lockheed Martin an RERP engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, now targeted for January.

The air force already has an initial funding of $47 million for BF Goodrich to start work on the C-5's pylon and is seeking $100 million in the 2002 budget.

USAF plans initially to upgrade the 50 C-5Bs and defer any decision on 76 C-5As until 2009. The two flight test aircraft, due to fly in early 2005, will both now be C-5Bs rather than a mix of models, but the USAF is hoping to include a C-5A retrofit design in EMD.

There is about 95% commonality between the two aircraft, and differences will be further narrowed by a continuing and separately funded avionics modernisation. The C-5A will need more structural attention, particularly in the upper-aft fuselage, which is subject to cracking.

Boeing, meanwhile, is pushing for a follow-on contract to the 120 C-17s already ordered. The company says it will need funding in 2002 for long lead items to ensure continuity of production beyond 2005.

The USAF has stated that it requires seven additional C-17s for every 1.6 million tonne-km shortfall. Its options include a multi-year offer from Boeing of 60 more C-17s at a cost of $150 million each; splitting the purchase; and either ordering an initial batch of 20-30 airlifters or just the 15 which are required by the special operations forces.

Source: Flight International