How Big is the C-5 galaxy Transport Aircraft? A Comparison with the C-17 Globemaster.

Transport aircraft has become a critical asset in modern warfare, enabling rapid and long-distance transportation of military personnel, weapons, and equipment to the frontlines. Among various transport aircraft, the strategic transport aircraft stands out for its ability to carry large loads over vast distances.

 In this article, we will explore and compare the massive C-5 transport aircraft with the C-17, shedding light on why the C-5 galaxy is hailed as a super large strategic transport aircraft.

The Significance of Air Transport in Modern Warfare

Air transport offers unparalleled speed, allowing strategic transport aircraft to cover 10,000 kilometers in just ten hours, while sea and land transportation takes significantly longer. This advantage makes air transport crucial in supporting frontline operations and controlling the battlefield situation. 

However, air transport does have drawbacks, such as lower carrying capacity and higher costs compared to sea and land transportation. Despite this, major countries recognize the indispensable role of air transport, especially strategic transport aircraft, which can transport massive payloads over long distances.

Major Players in Strategic Transport Aircraft Development

Out of the over 200 countries and regions worldwide, only three nations have independently developed and manufactured strategic transport aircraft: China, the United States, and Russia.

 The United States boasts the C-5 “Galaxy” heavy strategic transport aircraft and the C-17 “Globemaster” strategic transport aircraft. Russia has its An-124 “Ruslan” heavy-duty strategic transport aircraft and Il-76 strategic transport aircraft, while China’s Air Force operates the Y-20 “Kunpeng” strategic transport aircraft. 

Notably, China is still lagging behind the United States and Russia in this domain due to its late entry into transport aircraft development.

The Power of 400-ton Strategic Transport Aircraft

The C-5 “Galaxy” and An-124 “Ruslan” represent the pinnacle of strategic transport aircraft development for the United States and Russia, respectively. These 400-ton strategic transport aircraft boast remarkable capabilities, with carrying capacities almost two to three times greater than 200-ton aircraft like the C-17, Y-20, and Il-76. For example, the Y-20 can carry 66 tons, while the An-124 can transport a staggering 150 tons. 

The C-5 and An-124 range also exceeds 12,000 kilometers, compared to 7,000-10,000 kilometers for the C17, Y-20, and Il-76. This stark difference in capacity and range highlights the importance of super-large strategic transport aircraft in military operations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 400-ton Strategic Transport Aircraft

C-5M Galaxy
C-5M Galaxy

While the 400-ton strategic transport aircraft possess exceptional capabilities, they also come with certain drawbacks. These aircraft have higher requirements for take-off and landing at airports, which limits their ability to transport materials directly to the front lines during wartime. For transportation tasks within 5,000 kilometers, tactical transport aircraft and 200-ton strategic transport aircraft prove to be more flexible and efficient. 

C-17 Globemaster III

Tactical transport aircraft, like the C-17 and others, can take off and land at field airports, facilitating direct transport to the frontline and eliminating the need for complex transshipment procedures.

The C-5 vs. C-17: A Size Comparison

To visualize the size difference between the C-5 “Galaxy” and the C-17 “Globemaster,” we can compare their key dimensions:

C-17 “Globemaster”:

  • Length: 53.04 meters
  • Wingspan: 51.81 meters
  • Height: 16.79 meters
  • Empty Weight: 128 tons
  • Maximum Load: 77 tons
  • Maximum Take-off Weight: 285 tons

C-5 “Galaxy”:

  • Length: 75.3 meters
  • Wingspan: 67.89 meters
  • Height: 19.84 meters
  • Empty Weight: 172.3 tons
  • Maximum Load: 122 tons
  • Maximum Take-off Weight: 381 tons

From the data above, it’s evident that the C-5 “Galaxy” outshines the C-17 “Globemaster” in terms of size and capacity, with a significantly longer fuselage, wingspan, and a maximum take-off weight that surpasses the C-17 by 96 tons.


The C-5 “Galaxy” is rightly called a super large strategic transport aircraft, boasting immense size and carrying capacity compared to the C-17 “Globemaster.” While the 400-ton strategic transport aircraft may have certain limitations, their role in modern warfare is undeniable. The ability to swiftly transport massive payloads over vast distances provides a crucial advantage to air forces worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Q: Can tactical transport aircraft replace 400-ton strategic transport aircraft?
    • A: Tactical transport aircraft are more suitable for short-range transportation tasks, while 400-ton strategic transport aircraft excel in long-distance, high-capacity operations.
  1. Q: How many countries possess 400-ton strategic transport aircraft?
    • A: Only the United States and Russia currently operate 400-ton strategic transport aircraft, namely the C5 “Galaxy” and An-124 “Ruslan.”
  1. Q: Is China developing larger strategic transport aircraft?
    • A: China has plans to advance into the 300-ton, 400-ton, and 600-ton classes of strategic transport aircraft, highlighting the significance of super-large transport capabilities.
  1. Q: What is the maximum carrying capacity of the C-5 “Galaxy”?
    • A: The C5 “Galaxy” can carry a maximum payload of 122 tons, making it one of the world’s most substantial strategic transport aircraft.
  1. Q: How vital are strategic transport aircraft in modern military operations?
    • A: Strategic transport aircraft play a crucial role in supporting frontline battlefield operations and providing timely transportation of personnel, weapons, and equipment over long distances.