Battle of the Big Boys?:

Lawmakers appear to be taking sides in a battle for defense budget dollars centering on the Air Force’s two strategic airlifters—specifically the C-5A vs. the C-17. One side favors revamping the 48 oldest C-5s, while the other side wants to buy more than the currently authorized 190 new C-17s. At a March 7 House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing, C-5 advocates Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) questioned the Air Force’s desire to retire the C-5As, maintaining that, once the A models receive new avionics and new engines they will last another 25 years and that such upgrades cost less than buying new C-17s—Gingrey said “one-third that of a new C-17.” They also noted that the C-5 can haul some military equipment that won’t fit on the C-17. And, Marshall maintained that once upgraded, the notorious 49.5 percent mission capability rate would rise nearly to the level of the C-17. (See below.) On the other side, James Saxton (R-N.J.) noted that the number of times the Air Force can fly the mammoth C-5 fully loaded “is really small,” arguing that just because it can haul twice the load of a C-17 doesn’t make it “the ultimate airplane.”