C-5A Retirements OK, but with Caveats

The Air Force may go ahead and retire its remaining C-5A transports—leaving the service with a planned fleet of 275 strategic airlifters—but only after the Pentagon completes its ongoing mobility capabilities assessment, decided Congressional overseers of defense policy. Further, the Air Force must preserve these C-5As “in flyable condition” once out of service and not use them to supply parts to other aircraft as long as the total number of strategic airlifters in the operational fleet is less than 301 tails, according to the language in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization conference report. Only the Defense Secretary may authorize the Air Force to cannibalize these C-5As for parts, states the report, which House and Senate defense authorizers released on Dec. 18. The lawmakers also want the Defense Secretary to maintain a strategic airlift fleet of “not less than 275 aircraft,” states the report. The Air Force leadership proposed retiring the service’s 27 remaining C-27As in the service’s Fiscal 2013 budget proposal. That would leave 223 C-17s and 52 newly upgraded C-5Ms for strategic airlift, which the leadership maintains is sufficient to satisfy the demand. The House on Dec. 20 approved the conference version of the defense authorization bill by a vote of 315 to 107. The Senate must approve it before it goes to President Obama for his signature. (Conference report full text; caution, extremely large file.) (For more background, read Mobility Maturation from Air Force Magazine’s June 2012 issue.)