IDA Airlift Study Tidbits

The Defense Department’s mobility capability requirements study isn’t due for release until around December, but the Institute for Defense Analysis’ Congressionally mandated study of fixed-wing intra- and inter-theater airlift was issued to Congress in mid March. Some information from IDA’s analysis is emerging. In particular, we’ve seen DOD correspondence to members of Congress that states IDA analysis shows that it would be more advisable to upgrade all C-5As to the C-5M Super Galaxy configuration rather than procuring additional C-17s, if the US needs more inter-theater, strategic airlift capability. (The C-17, of course, serves in both strategic and tactical roles.) The C-5 upgrade involves adding new propulsion and performance improvements under the ongoing C-5 reliability enhancement and re-engining program. Currently only the Air Force’s C-5Bs and C-5C models are included in the RERP, while the 59 remaining C-5As are slated only to get new avionics—as are the C-5Bs and C-5Cs—under a separate initiative. Another finding of IDA’s analysis is that the C-27J is more cost effective than the C-130J in non-major combat operations, but the C-130J is the more cost-effective option in major combat operation scenarios. (For more on the air mobility issue, read Airlift on Thin Ice from the October 2008 issue of Air Force Magazine.)