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US Air Force upgrading avionics on largest aircraft in its fleet

Lockheed C-5 Galaxy military transport aircraft
US Air Force file photo of a C-5 landing in Germany in 2016

The Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate has awarded Alaska-based Tyonek Native Corporation a contract for the avionics upgrade of the largest aircraft in the US Air Force inventory.

Under an “Alternate Modification Installation” (AMI) contract worth up to $92.8 million, Tyonek will install avionic modifications on the C-5 Galaxy fleet.

Designed to improve the performance and effectiveness of the aircraft, the modifications will upgrade the core mission computer and color weather radar (CMC/WxR) system, the communications, navigation, surveillance, and the air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system. In addition, the large aircraft infrared countermeasures system (LAIRCM) onboard will receive the Block 30 upgrade.

The C-5 is among the largest military aircraft in the world, providing the US Air Force with an intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability for outsized and oversized loads. It is only surpassed in dimensions and cargo capacity by the Russian Antonov An-124.

US Air Force infographic with obligatory London double decker buses for size reference

The avionics upgrade contract is the first time the directorate has used an AMI contract, 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.

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 will also enable modifications on the C-5 to be completed at a pace of 46 days per aircraft. A procedure that would normally take three months per aircraft to complete under traditional contracts.

Two C-5s received the modifications prior to the AMI contract. Upgrades on the 50 remaining aircraft in the C-5 fleet are scheduled to begin on June 28, 2021, and conclude by July 2025.

“This contract is a big deal,” said Capt. Denzel Varnado, the directorate’s AMI program manager. “This contract ensures that we are not only able to get the warfighter these upgraded weapon systems [C-5s] quickly, but to also have the flexibility to make changes as required. These advantages are a huge win for the C-5 platform and our troops. As the Air Force becomes more agile, a contract like this will play a key role in our success.”