C-5 Galaxy Vs C-17 Globemaster


The US Air Force is one of the strongest air forces in the world due to its modern fleet of cargo planes that serve various military and humanitarian purposes. The C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster are two heavy transport aircrafts used by the United States Air Force. Both of these planes are powered with jet engines and feature a large cargo capacity, but they have their unique differences. This article will compare and contrast C-5 Galaxy vs. C-17 Globemaster, providing a detailed analysis of each aircraft’s capabilities, cost, and performance.

C-5 Galaxy Vs. C-17 Globemaster: Comparison


The C-5 Galaxy is a massive heavy-lift cargo aircraft whose design debuted in the 1960s. With a wingspan of 222.9 feet, the C-5 measures 247 feet in length and 65.5 feet in height. It is capable of transporting 270,000 pounds of cargo over long distances at high altitudes. The C-5 has a large payload and airlift capacity, making it a perfect cargo aircraft for the US military.

In contrast, the C-17 Globemaster has a more modern design, appearing in the 1990s. The aircraft is 174 feet in length and 55.1 feet in height, with a wingspan measuring approximately 169 feet. This aircraft can deliver up to 171,000 pounds of cargo while still maintaining speed and altitude. The C-17 has the advantage of shorter wings, making it easier to land on highways or compared to the C-5.


The Airbus A380 is the only plane larger than the C-5, with a 550,000-pound payload capacity. The C-5 Galaxy is the world’s second-largest military transport aircraft, with a payload capacity of 275,000 pounds. The C-5 can transport over 90 soldiers, 36 pallets of cargo, and 6 wheeled military vehicles like the Humvee.

While smaller than the C-5, the C-17 Globemaster III still has a considerable payload capacity. The C-17 can transport 102 troops with gear and two Humvee-like vehicles. The C-17 Globemaster can also airdrop troops and cargo in remote areas.

Range and Speed

The C-5 Galaxy has a range of about 8,000 miles without re-fueling. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 518 miles per hour, making it faster than most transport aircraft, including its successor, the C-17. It is also noted for its ability to carry a wider range of equipment than any other cargo aircraft.

In contrast, the C-17 Globemaster III has a range of around 2,400 miles. With a top speed of 515 miles per hour, it is roughly three times faster than most cargo aircraft. The C-17 can also deliver troops and cargo directly to the field and can be refueled in-flight.


The base cost of the C-5 Galaxy is approximately $90 million, but the Department of Defense has put the cost of upgrades and modernization at around $18.5 billion. Maintenance and operating costs are also expensive for such massive aircraft.

The base cost of the C-17 Globemaster is around $218.8 million, almost three times more expensive than the C-5 Galaxy. The C-17 is also more costly to maintain and requires a more significant number of technicians and staff to operate the plane.


Q: How do the C-5 and the C-17 compare in terms of reliability and safety?

A: The US Air Force has a reputation for maintaining one of the safest fleets in the world. Both the C-5 and C-17 undergo rigorous safety testing, but the C-5 has had more mechanical issues in the past than the newer C-17. However, the US military has worked to upgrade the C-5 and enhance its safety and reliability.

Q: How do the C-5 and the C-17 differ in terms of maneuverability and landing abilities?

A: Due to its larger size, the C-5 can have difficulty landing on shorter runways, smaller airfields, and in adverse weather conditions. The C-17 has shorter wings, making it more maneuverable than the C-5 and easier to land in challenging conditions. The C-17 can also roll to a stop in a shorter distance than the C-5.

Q: How do the C-5 and the C-17 compare in terms of deployment and mission range?

A: The C-5’s long-range makes air routes more flexible, but only twenty-six are currently in active service in the US Air Force. The C-17 has a shorter range, but over 200 are currently in service.


Both aircrafts serve different roles in the US military, and the C-5 and C-17 excel in their respective strengths. The C-5 has a larger cargo capacity and a longer range, making it capable of transporting military vehicles and equipment. Whereas, the C-17 can transport cargo and personnel quickly within a shorter range, and offers more flexibility in smaller airfields or adverse weather conditions. Both planes have demonstrated usefulness over the years, and depending on the mission, the US Air Force can utilize either aircraft as necessary.