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September 15, 2009—Gen. Arthur Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, indicated that the additional C-17s coming into the fleet as a result of Congressional add-ons to the 2010 defense budget will affect the current airlift mix—leaving USAF no choice but to advocate retiring older, less reliable C-5A models.

Lichte emphasized that his original mobility requirement was a fleet of 205 C-17s and 111 C-5s for global airlift needs, but as the number of C-17s keeps creeping up it creates fleet management issues.

“Anything essentially that is over the 205 C-17s, we start knocking off some of the older, poorest performing C-5s,” Lichte said.

At a minimum, he said, AMC wants to keep 52 C-5Bs that have gone through the Avionics Modernization Program and are due to receive new engines and structural upgrades under the Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program.

The Air Force will keep the B models—the Galaxies in the best shape—in addition to one A model still mandated by Congress and the two C-5Cs.

“A lot will depend on what the ultimate number of C-17s will become.”

It’s very important that Congress grants permission to begin retiring C-5As, which have been on Congressional retirement restriction for the last five years, he added. “We’re not allowed to manage our fleet; … it creates lots of problems,” said Lichte, who has testified to this before Congress on multiple occasions.

The message may have finally gotten through. Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense voted to rescind the C-5A retirement restriction in the 2010 defense spending bill.

When asked if he indeed was planning on beginning the retirements, Lichte said he had not yet been officially cleared to do so. “As soon as I see the signed document then I guess that’s where we’re going,” he said.

He noted that AMC already has a list drawn up of the “poorest performing airframes” that will head to the boneyard. However, he cautioned, “Until we have permission we won’t do so.”