A new type of aircraft modification contract, focused on non-structural avionics, electrical and mechanical upgrades, is to return U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy transports by Lockheed Martin [LMT] to service more rapidly than traditional contracting, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said this month.

Lockheed Martin delivered the C-5, the largest plane in the Air Force inventory, between 1970 and 1989. The 52 C-5Ms are re-engined earlier versions of the C-5.

Last October, AFLCMC’s Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate awarded a $92.8 million Alternate Modification Installation (AMI) contract to Tyonek Native Corp.–an Alaska Native-owned company, to install avionics upgrades on the C-5M.

“This is the first time the directorate has used an AMI contract, which is a small business contract that allows the business to play a supporting role to Air Force depots – where major repair, maintenance and modifications on aircraft generally take place,” per AFLCMC.  “The AMI contract is specifically designed to focus on avionics, electrical and mechanical modifications as opposed to structural modifications, which will be left to depots. The contract is also designed to shorten the time it takes to install modifications, in order to get the aircraft back into the field and supporting operations around the world.”

The AMI upgrades include the C-5 Core Mission Computer/Weather Radar (CMC/WxR) by Utah-based Gauss Management Research and Engineering, Collins Aerospace [RTX], and Honeywell [HON]; the C-5 Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system by Tyonek, Honeywell and Collins Aerospace; and Block 30 of the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures pod (LAIRCM) by Northrop Grumman [NOC].

The Air Force has said that CMC/WxR “is the baseline for all future modifications to the C-5M” and that CMC/WxR will help maintain C-5M availability for operations, as the aircraft’s current Honeywell APS-133 WxRadar and current core processing module cards are facing “severe” diminishing manufacturing source (DMS) issues (Defense Daily, March 5, 2020).

The CNS/ATM upgrade is to allow the C-5 to fly oceanic tracks and meet civil airspace aircraft separation distance requirements.

Under the AMI contract, “modifications on the C-5 will take 46 days per aircraft, versus the three months per aircraft – pending program depot maintenance requirements and speed-line constraints – that it would have taken through traditional contracts,” AFLCMC said this month. “Two C-5s received the modifications prior to the AMI contract. Modifications on the 50 remaining aircraft in the C-5 fleet, are scheduled to begin on June 28, 2021, and conclude by July 2025.”

The Air Force has installed glass cockpits for the C-5Ms under the Avionics Modernization Program and has finished a Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program to sustain the service life of the 52 C-5Ms until 2040. In addition, Lockheed Martin has been looking into what would be needed to extend the C-5M airframe to 2050 or 2060.