C-17: A Critical Asset CSC 1992 SUBJECT AREA - Aviation EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Title: C-17: A Critical Asset Author: Major B.W. Peters, U.S. Air Force Thesis: Program restructuring has degraded the ability of C-l7s to support U.S. military strategy of power projection; therefore, the C-17 program must be revisited if we are resolved to meet our world responsibilities and commitments. Background: Fiscal constraints forced the U.S. to shift away from a forward-based deployment strategy. Subsequently, Congressional budget cuts have compelled the Air Force to relook aircraft quantity buys. Because the mission of the Air Force is to fly and fight, support aircraft (C-17) took a back seat in the procurement world to the "shooters." Consequently, the C-17 buy was reduced from 210 to 120 aircraft. The current C-17 buy (120 aircraft) degrades the ability of C-l7s to support U.S. military strategy of power projection. If we are truly resolved to honor our world commitments, then the C-17 program must be revisited and given funding priority over the "shooters." Discussion: This paper briefly describes the need to procure an adequate number of C-l7 aircraft to enable U.S. combat forces access to hot spots worldwide first with the most force, or at least be able to project enough force to successfully prosecute a forcible entry scenario. Therefore, the C-17 should be our top aircraft procurement program. The C-17 program must be revisited if we are resolved to meet our global responsibilities and commitments. C-17: A CRITICAL ASSET OUTLINE Thesis Statement: Program restructuring has degraded the ability of C-17s to support U.S. military strategy of power projection; therefore, the C-17 program must be revisited if we are resolved to meet our world responsibilities and commitments. I. Introduction A. Congressional budget cuts and their effect on Air Force aircraft procurement 1. Lowered aircraft performance standards 2. Priority of effort, i.e., shooters vice airlift B. Past/future wars and the need for airlift II. Advantages of C-17 A. Direct delivery capability B. Improved short field capability C. Designed to meet needs of Army and Marine Corps III. C-l7 Funding Issues A. Effects of stretching out the C-17 program B. Re-allocation of "shooter" funds to procure additional C-17 aircraft IV. Alternatives to Shortfall in C-17 Aircraft Numbers A. C-l41 Service Life Extension Program B. Reopen C-5 production line C-17: A Critical Asset The United States is being judged by its resolve to meet its responsibilities and honor its commitments. The eyes of the world - both friend and foe - will be watching the C-17 production decision as a sign of that resolve.(1) Airpower alone cannot win wars; the army must defeat the enemy's army and occupy its land.(2) U.S. wars in the future may or may not be limited in goals, geographic scope, or material resources. These wars will inevitably be limited in time.(3) Budget constraints are forcing the United States to shift away from a forward-based deployment strategy.(4) Therefore, the majority of our combat forces will be maintained in the United States. If the United States is going to win wars and do it quickly, we must be able to project adequate force to the battle area in time to make a difference. The C-17 is that force projector that allows the United States to project adequate force to the battle areas. If we cannot get there first with the most force, then we must be able to project adequate force to successfully prosecute a forcible entry scenario. Congressional budget cuts forced the Air Force to relook at aircraft quantity buys. Programs Air Force wide were reduced or canceled. Because the mission of the Air Force is to fly and fight, support aircraft (C-17) took a back seat in the procurement world to the B-2 and YF-22. Consequently, the C-17 buy was reduced from 210 to 120 aircraft (A/C).(5) Program restructuring has degraded the ability of C-17s to support U.S. military strategy of power projection; therefore, the C-17 program must be revisited if we are resolved to meet our world responsibilities and commitments. The Air Force is faced with severe budget cuts and force reductions. Some people believe the Air Force should procure "shooters" at the expense of support aircraft (i.e., support aircraft do not drop bombs, or gain air superiority). Furthermore, these same people believe the current airlift fleet (C-141, C-5, C-13O) is adequate as witnessed during Desert Storm. Also, lead time for initial operating capability for the B-2 and YF-22 is 10 to 15 years.(6) Reducing or delaying these buys jeopardizes the Air Force's ability to fight in the future. Because of budget constraints the Air Force lowered C- 17 performance standards thereby degrading airlift support for our military strategy. Some critics believe that because the C-17 will not live up to its original specifications, the program should be canceled. The original agreement with McDonnell Douglas (A/C manufacturer) called for the C-17 to carry 172,000 pounds of cargo 2,400 miles. Currently, the contract calls for the C-17 to carry 160,000 pounds over the same distance. Also, the original contract required the capability to land on a 7,600 foot runway with a full payload (172,000 pounds). The performance standard was changed to landing on a 8,500 foot runway, however, carrying the new weight of 160,000 pounds. Furthermore, similar weight reductions impacted the capability of the C-17 to land on a 3,000 foot runway. The change in the landing performance decreased A/C flexibility and throughput. In addition, access to worldwide runways was reduced from over 10,000 to approximately 7,000. (A C-5 can land on about 5,000 runways worldwide. )(7) The United States needs more C-17s to counter lowered performance standards. The need for "shooters" and the concern over lower performance standards are valid points, however, mobility is especially critical in the world today. The Secretary of Defense often mentions that waging war requires the ability to move, shoot, and communicate. In addition, he stresses that the ability to move and deploy forces and equipment is first on the list.(8) The Air Force must place a higher emphasis on supporting the movement of forces and equipment (i.e., 210 C-17 aircraft) in a timely manner vice procuring the next generation "shooter." Our three top "shooters" rolled off the assembly line in the mid-l970s to late-1980s. Conversely, our airlift assets are antiquated (mid-1950s to late-1960s) and, in my opinion, cannot keep pace with the demands of deploying a large force in a timely manner. Desert Storm proved we had more than enough air power. This armada of air power was less than half the "shooter" numbers the Air Force possesses. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the need for a next generation "shooter" decreases. Our present armada dominated the Iraqi Air Force which experts consider some of the best aircraft and pilots in the world.(9) The 120 vice 210 C-17s degrades our ability to project adequate force to the battle area in time to make a difference. The risk associated with a decreased C-17 buy may be paid in lives of American soldiers and the freedom of a people. Past wars have shown us the importance of airlift as a force projector. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, airlifted equipment began arriving in Israel 24 hours after initial request. However, sealifted supplies arrived nine days after the oral cease fire.(10) Also, Desert Storm maximized our airlift capability for six months.(11) It is highly improbable that the United States could have provided airlift for another regional war while Desert Storm was in progress. The Congressionally Mandated Mobility Study (CMMS) recommended a minimum goal of 66 million ton miles per day (MTM/D) in strategic airlift. The C-5/C-141/C-130 aircraft mix provides 31 MTM/D. The original C-17 program (210 aircraft) raised the capacity to 66 MTM/D, as well as replaced some of the aging C-141 aircraft. If the United States is to support war in two different regions, meeting the 66 MTM/D goal (210 vice 120 C-17 aircraft) is critical. The C-5/C-141/C-130 A/C mix plus 120 C-17 A/C produces approximately 50 MTM/D. The MTM/D to support Desert Shield/Storm was about 46 MTM/D. (12) Hq MAC validated that during the first 45 days of Desert Storm, 117 C-141 aircraft could have been replaced with 80 C-17s.(13) Therefore, the C- 17 becomes a force multiplier as the United States shifts from a forward-based deployment strategy. The C-l7 reduces time from onload to the battle area. Direct delivery is a key element of C-17 design. Direct delivery places a full range of equipment, firepower, and troops to where they are needed. Cargo airlifted today require an intertheater sortie (C-141/C-5) to a transshipment base. Then the cargo is transferred to an intratheater sortie (C-130) before the cargo arrives at the destination airport. The C-17 eliminates the transshipment base. In addition, the C-17 is air refuelable. This means that the aircraft never has to land enroute to the combat zone, thus increasing its independence from overseas bases for fuel stops. This capability adds to the direct delivery process. For example, to deploy a light infantry division takes 268 (C-17) direct delivery sorties. To move the same division, using the C-141/C-5 and C-130 combination, takes 1650 sorties.(14) Direct delivery allows airlifted Army/Marine equipment and supplies to proceed directly to the battle areas. This method bypasses the congestion and backlog at the main operating bases and reduces the time to reach the battlefield. The C-17 is capable of delivering outsized cargo in all types of weather more efficiently than existing airlift aircraft. Also, the C-17 can deliver outsized and heavy payloads directly into small airfields where C-5/C-141 aircraft were prohibited to land. (15) The C-17 short field capability (ability to operate into airstrips of 3,000 feet) provides our strategic airlift force access to 6,399 additional airfields worldwide to include over 1,000 in NATO and South West Asia. Also, the C-17's superior ground maneuvering allows more aircraft to be on the ramp of floading supplies to our forces. Eight C- 17s can park in the space required for 3 C-5s (C-17/C-5 payloads are about the same). In addition, the C-17 has a smaller turning radius than the C-141 and C-5, and backs up like a C-l30. This means that the C-17 offers a 3 to 1 advantage over C-5 in cargo throughput on a 500,000 square foot ramp.(16) The needs of the Army and Marine Corp were the impetus in the design of the C-17. For example, the dimension of the cargo hold under the wing box was determined by the height of the Army's Apache helicopter from the ground to its rotor hub. The C-17 will also be able to fuel Army/Marine helicopters or other aircraft on the ground directly from the airlifter's wing tanks. In addition, the fuselage under the troop seats is lined with a bulletproof composite material (the seats have molded backs for support during assault landings).(17) Stretching out the program buy also degrades the C-17's ability to support our military strategy of power projection. The fiscal year (FY) 1990 Presidents Budget (PB) funded 120 C-17 A/C. Subsequently, the 1991 PB also funded 120 A/C. The decrease in the C-17 buy (120 vice 210 A/C) resulted in a $90 million (M) increase in program acquisition unit cost (i.e., $199M (210 A/C), $289M (120A/C)). The dollar increase gives the impression that the program is sick and should be cut. To meet 1991 program marks (budget cuts), 26 A/C were slipped to FY 1998/1999. Consequently, U.S. power projection capability will be degraded an extra two years. Furthermore, this slip has increased total program cost $1 billion (current year dollars).(18) This increased cost will probably become a target of opportunity for budget cutters. Therefore, the 26 A/C may get cut. Dollars earmarked for the next generation "shooter" (Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) and B-2) should be moved to the C-17 program. In my opinion, there are sufficient funds in the correct years to procure 90 additional C-17s (210 total C-17 aircraft). The remaining dollars from the ATF and B-2 programs would be earmarked for research and development (R&D) efforts. The R&D effort would allow the United States to maintain a technological edge in the "shooter" arena. An alternative to the 90 A/C shortfall (120 vice 210) is to extend the life of our C-141 fleet. The C-141 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) cost $12.4 billion. In addition to the program's prohibitive cost, SLEP does not cancel the need for a future airlift aircraft. Also, SLEP does not offer state-of-the-art technology. Furthermore, the C-17 carries more than twice the payload of a C-141 for about the same cost per flying hour.(19) Another alternative to the 90 A/C shortfall is to reopen the C-5 production line. Hq MAC has determined that it is cost prohibitive to restart the C-5 production line. Furthermore, the C-5 complements the C-17, but does not replace it. The C-17 requires 14,700 fewer people than a comparable C-5/C-130 buy. In addition, C-17 offers life- cycle cost savings of $16 billion in manpower and maintenance. The C-17 incorporates proven, off-the-shelf technology. It has a guaranteed mission reliability rate of 93 percent, airframe components warranted for 10,000 hours, and an aircraft structure warranted for 30,000 hours.(20) Successful execution of U.S. military strategy depends on the capability to deploy fighting forces where they are needed in time to make a difference. The C-l7 is that force projector that enables the United States to quickly deploy forces worldwide. Therefore, the C-17 should be our top aircraft procurement program. However, program restructuring has degraded the ability of C-17s to support U.S. military strategy of power projection. Consequently, we need to increase the C-17 procurement to 210 vice 120 aircraft if we are resolved to meet our world responsibilities and commitments. ENDNOTES 1. Duane H. Cassidy, Gen., CINCMAC, "MAC's Moment of Truth," Air Force Magazine, Sep 1986, p. 123. 2. Charles Horner, Lt Gen., lecture at CSC, Air Power in the Gulf, 6 Jan 1992. 3. C-17 Production, Hq MAC Pamphlet, p.1. 4. Arnold Punaro, Staff Director, Senate Armed Forces Committee, lecture at CSC, Ends, Ways, Means, 2 Oct 1991. 5. Joseph Ralston, MGen. USAF, lecture at CSC, U.S. Air Force Aviation, 22 Jan 1992. 6. lbid. 7. Casey Anderson, "C-17 standards cut to lower price, MAC chief says, "` Air Force Times, 8 Apr 1991, p. 6. 8. Hq MAC Pamphlet, p.4. 9. Horner, lecture at CSC, 6 Jan 1992. 10. Ibid. 11. Hq MAC/XP, "C-17, Geopolitical Argument," 4 Oct 1991. 12. Hq MAC Pamphlet, p.6. 13. Hansford Johnson, Gen. USAF, lecture at CSC, Views of CINCTRANSCOM, 10 Feb 1992. 14. Hq MAC/XP, Point Paper. 15. Hq MAC/XP, "C-17 -- The All-Theater Airlifter," 27 Mar 1991. 16. Hq MAC/XR, "C-17 Point Paper," 4 Oct 1991. 17. C-17," Air Force Magazine, p. 56. 18. SAF/AQ, 1'C-17," 2 Feb 1991. 19. Hq MAC, "C-17 -- The Cost Effective Answer," 4 Oct 1991. 20. Ibid. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Anderson, Casey. "C-17 standards cut to lower price." Air Force Times, 8 Apr 1991, p. 6. 2. Cassidy, Duane, Gen., USAF. "MAC's Moment of Truth." Air Force Magazine, Sep 1986, p. 123. 3. "C-17, Geopolitical Argument." Hq MAC/XP, 4 Oct 1991. 4. "C-17 Point Paper." Hq MAC/XR, 4 Oct 1991. 5. C-17 Production, Hq MAC Pamphlet. 6. "C-17 -- The All-Theater Airlifter." Hq MAC/XP, 27 Mar 1991. 7. Horner, Charles, Lt Gen., USAF. lecture at CSC. Air Power in the Gulf. 6 Jan 1992. 8. Johnson, Hansford, Gen., USAF. lecture at CSC. Views of CINCTRANSCOM. 10 Feb 1992. 9. Punaro, Arnold, Staff Director, Senate Armed Forces Committee. lecture at CSC. Ends, Ways, Means. 2 Oct 1991. 10. Ralston, Joseph, MGen., USAF. lecture at CSC. U.S. Air Force Aviation. 22 Jan 1992. 11. SAF/AQ, "C-17," 2 Feb 1991.
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