The US Air Force is working towards Defence Acquisition Board (DAB) approval later this month for full scale development of the Lockheed Martin C-5A/B Galaxy Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Programme (RERP), while Boeing is pushing for long-lead funding in the next budget to ensure C-17 production beyond 2004.

The USAF has been waiting to move ahead with RERP and a follow-on C-17 purchase since the completion earlier this year of the Department of Defense's Mobility Requirements Study 2005. It identified a need for a 10% increase in the Air Mobility Command's 49.7 million ton-mile airlift capability, while an earlier analysis of alternatives recommended the upgrade of 50 C-5Bs and ordering more C-17s.

A final go-ahead has been delayed by changes in acquisition strategy and the preparation of the Quadrennial Defence Review.

A DAB green light for RERP is now expected on 23 October, and should be followed by the award of a $700 million system design and development (SDD) contract by early December. Boeing is hoping for long-lead funding in the fiscal year 2002 budget - now before Congress - for another 15 C-17s.

SDD covers development for both Galaxy versions, but testing of only the newer C-5B, from July 2005. After delivery of the first General Electric CF6-80C2L1F-powered aircraft in November 2006, there will be an 18 month demonstration during which the upgraded transport will have to meet a 75% mission availability guarantee before production deliveries start in 2008.

The USAF has the option in 2009 to add the 76 C-5As, extending RERP production to 2014 and pushing the cost up to $7.9 billion. The two Galaxy versions share the same new engine and pylon but there are electrical and hydraulic features unique to the C-5A.

Source: Flight International