C 5 Vs C 17

C-5 Vs C-17: The Battle of the Giants

Military transportation aircrafts are often designed to carry heavy cargo and personnel swiftly and without any hassle. Among the roster of heavy lifters operated by the United States Air Force (USAF), two aircrafts stand out – C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III. Both of these planes play a critical role in global operations and offer unique capabilities to their users. This article will delve into the specifications of both C-5 and C-17 planes, compare their features to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each aircraft, and answer frequently asked questions.

Specifications of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III

The C-5 Galaxy is a massive American military transport aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The plane has been operational since 1970, and considered one of the largest aircraft in the world. C-5 is designed to transport oversized cargo, equipment, and personnel at a maximum range of 4,800 nautical miles, depending on the payload.

On the other hand, the C-17 Globemaster III is a military transport aircraft built by Boeing. The plane boasts excellent short takeoff and landing capabilities and can deliver troops and cargo to remote locations where other heavy lifters cannot reach. The C-17 can travel up to 2,400 nautical miles with a full payload, making it a suitable aircraft for strategic and tactical airlift missions.

Both planes have distinct differences in their design and capabilities, which make them ideal for specific roles. Let’s dig deeper into their unique features.

Comparison of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III

Cargo Capacity: The primary mission of both planes is to carry heavy and oversized cargo, but the C-5 Galaxy edges out the C-17 in this regard. The C-5 has a maximum cargo capacity of 270,000 pounds, which outmatches the 170,000 pounds cargo capacity of the C-17. This feature makes the C-5 ideal for large-scale humanitarian relief missions and bulky military equipment transportation.

Range: The C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III have different ranges to serve diverse transport purposes. The C-5 Galaxy can fly up to 8,000 miles with its maximum fuel capacity, while the C-17 has a range of 4,500 miles. However, the C-17 is ideal for transporting troops, equipment, and supplies to short and unimproved runways, while the C-5 Galaxy requires a more extensive runway due to its massive size.

Speed: The C-17 is the clear winner in terms of speed, with a maximum haul speed of 515 miles per hour (Mach 0.77). The aircraft’s preeminent speed makes it ideal for transporting perishable cargo and time-sensitive missions. The C-5 Galaxy, on the other hand, has a maximum speed of 518 miles per hour (Mach 0.77), which is slightly faster than the C-17.

Takeoff Distance: The C-17 has a shorter takeoff distance than the C-5 Galaxy, making it possible for the aircraft to operate from short runways. The C-17 requires 3,500 feet of runway space for takeoff, while the C-5 requires a minimum of 8,000 feet.

Airfield Sustainment and Mobility: The C-17’s capabilities enable it to operate from unprepared and unpaved runways, so it’s ideal for supplying troops with critical items in remote locations. Simson Lee, former C-17 pilot and retired Air Force Colonel, said, “The C-17 is like a Swiss Army knife, with the ability to land and take off from dirt and grass runways.” The C-5, on the other hand, requires a more extensive runway to operate effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which aircraft is more expensive?
A: The C-5 Galaxy is more expensive to operate than the C-17 Globemaster III due to its size and maintenance costs.

Q: Which aircraft can carry more troops?
A: The C-5 Galaxy can carry more troops than the C-17 Globemaster III. The C-5 can carry up to 75 troops in its passenger cabin, while the C-17 can carry up to 102 troops.

Q: Which aircraft is easier to maintain?
A: The C-17 Globemaster III has a higher mission-capable rate than the C-5 Galaxy, which indicates that it is easier to maintain. The mission-capable rate refers to the percentage of time that the aircraft is available for mission sorties.

Q: Which aircraft is more fuel-efficient?
A: The C-17 Globemaster III is more fuel-efficient than the C-5 Galaxy. It has a fuel consumption rate of about 10,000 lbs per hour, while the C-5 consumes about 16,000 lbs per hour.


The C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III are both critically important in the USAF fleet. Despite having similarities in what they can do, both planes have unique features that make them better suited for specific missions. The C-5 is ideal for transporting massive cargo, while the C-17 is more suited for transporting troops and equipment to remote locations. The final decision on which aircraft to use depends on the specific mission requirements.