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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lockheed, Air Force Fixing ‘Deficiencies’ with C-5M

Marc Selinger

The U.S. Air Force’s C-5M program has fixed some of the problems that arose during two major modernization initiatives for the transport aircraft and is working to repair the others, according to the Air Force and prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin designed and successfully tested software changes to reduce the false alarm rate and improve the fault isolation rate of the jet’s new built-in test (BIT) function, which checks the health of the aircraft’s systems using on-aircraft sensors and reports the health status back to operators and maintainers, company spokesman Chad Gibson said.

“The Air Force is processing the final paperwork to get that version of software out to the field, and we hope that it will start to be installed on C-5M aircraft later this year,” Gibson told Avionics Magazine. “In addition to the software improvements … we have made several improvements to the Air Force technical orders to identify nuisance faults and to provide procedures to help flight crews and maintenance technicians deal with these indications while we process the software changes.”

The software package, known as Block 3.5, is also expected to resolve a susceptibility to information assurance problems.

To address a lack of C-5M-specific training systems, the Air Force has worked with another contractor, Flight Safety International, to convert flight crew trainers to the C-5M configuration. In the meantime, Lockheed Martin is supporting aircrew training with an engineering simulator. In addition, Lockheed Martin is developing two maintenance trainers: an avionics maintenance systems trainer that is undergoing testing at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and a flight controls systems trainer that will be delivered to Dover later this year.

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin said problems with the C-5M’s autopilot, environmental control system and thrust reversers have all been corrected and successfully tested.

The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) highlighted the various C-5M “deficiencies” in its fiscal 2011 annual report, the most recent available.

The Air Force has been upgrading the Lockheed Martin-built C-5 Galaxy, its largest airlifter, into the C-5M Super Galaxy through two major efforts –– the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and the Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program (RERP). AMP adds a glass cockpit, digital avionics and new communications, navigation and surveillance equipment. AMP also provides a digital backbone for RERP, whose centerpiece is four new GE commercial engines.

The programs are designed to boost the aircraft’s endurance, power and reliability and make it quieter and easier to fly and maintain. Specific improvements include reducing fuel consumption by 20 percent and cutting climb time by 50 percent. At the end of August, the C-5M fleet had flown more than 10,000 flight hours, 50 percent more than projected, Gibson said.

Lockheed Martin in April delivered the last of 79 C-5s to go through the 14-year-old AMP program. Of those, 52 are going through RERP, which is expected to achieve full-rate production this fall and be completed in fiscal year 2016. The Air Force plans to retire the other 27 aircraft, saying it no longer needs them.

The Air Force is pursuing additional upgrades to keep the aircraft ready for combat and humanitarian missions. Lockheed Martin expects to receive a development contract in March for the C-5M’s Core Mission Computer/Weather Radar Replacement Program. A modification to equip C-5Ms with Northrop Grumman’s anti-missile Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system is ongoing and scheduled for completion in fiscal year 2017.

Already in service for decades, the C-5 is slated to remain in the Air Force fleet through 2040.

“The C-5 is a national asset with no peers in its class,” Gibson said. “At this time, there is no known replacement in work.”

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