Lockheed C-141 Starlifter
President John F. Kennedy's first official
act after his inauguration was to order the development of an all-jet
transport to extend the reach of the nation's military forces. Lockheed's
C-141 StarLifter was the result.
The C-141 Starlifter is the workhorse of the Air Mobility Command. The
Starlifter fulfils the vast spectrum of airlift requirements through its
ability to airlift combat forces over long distances, inject those forces
and their equipment either by airland or airdrop, re-supply employed
forces, and extract the sick and wounded from the hostile area to advanced
The C-141B is a stretched C-141A with in-flight refuelling capability.
Stretching of the Starlifter consisted of lengthening the plane 23 feet, 4
inches (53.3 centimetres), which increased cargo capacity by about
one-third - 2,171 extra cubic feet (65.13 extra cubic meters). Lengthening
of the aircraft had the same effect as increasing the number of aircraft
by 30 percent. The C-141 was the first jet aircraft designed to meet
military standards as a troop and cargo carrier.
A universal air refuelling receptacle on the C-141B transfers 23,592
gallons (89,649.6 litres) of fuel in about 26 minutes, allowing longer
non-stop flights and fewer fuel stops during worldwide airlift missions.
The C-141 force, nearing seven million flying hours, has a proven
reliability and long-range capability.
The Starlifter, operated by the Air Mobility Command, can airlift combat
forces, equipment and supplies, and deliver them on the ground or by
airdrop, using paratroop doors on each side and a rear loading ramp. It
can be used for low-altitude delivery of paratroops and equipment, and
high-altitude delivery of paratroops. It can also airdrop equipment and
supplies using the container delivery system. It is the first aircraft
designed to be compatible with the 463L Material Handling System, which
permits off-loading 68,000 pounds (30,600 kilograms) of cargo, refuelling
and reloading a full load, all in less than an hour.
The C-141 has an all-weather landing system, pressurized cabin and crew
station. Its cargo compartment can easily be modified to perform around 30
different missions. About 200 troops or 155 fully equipped paratroops can
sit in canvas side-facing seats, or 166 troops in rear-facing airline
seats. Rollers in the aircraft floor allow quick and easy cargo pallet
loading. A palletized lavatory and galley can be installed quickly to
accommodate passengers, and when palletized cargo is not being carried,
the rollers can be turned over to leave a smooth, flat surface for loading
In its aeromedical evacuation role, the Starlifter can carry about 103
litter patients, 113 ambulatory patients or a combination of the two. It
provides rapid transfer of the sick and wounded from remote areas overseas
to hospitals in the United States.
The Air Force Reserve, through its associate units, provides 50 percent of
the Starlifter's airlift crews, 40 percent of its maintenance capability
and flies more than 30 percent of Air Mobility Command's peacetime
The first Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units to receive the
C-141 as unit equipment became operational in fiscal 1987. The units are
located at Jackson, Miss., and Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, a C-141 from the 437th Military
Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, S.C., was the first American aircraft into
Saudi Arabia, transporting an Airlift Control Element from the 438th
Military Airlift Wing, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. In the following year,
the C-141 completed the most airlift missions - 7,047 out of 15,800 -
supporting the Gulf War. It also carried more than 41,400 passengers and
139,600 tons (125,690 metric tons) of cargo.
The first C-141A, delivered to Tinker AFB, Okla., in October 1964, began
squadron operations in April 1965. Soon, Starlifters made flights almost
daily to Southeast Asia, carrying troops, equipment and supplies, and
returning patients to U.S. hospitals.
Several C-141s have been modified to carry the Minuteman intercontinental
ballistic missile in its special container, up to a total weight of 92,000
pounds (41,400 kilograms). Some C-141s have been equipped with
intra-formation positioning sets that enable a flight of two to 36
aircraft to maintain formation regardless of visibility. The C-141 was the
first jet transport from which U.S. Army paratroopers jumped, and the
first to land in the Antarctic. A C-141 established a world record for
heavy cargo drops of 70,195 pounds (31,587.7 kilograms).
The first C-141B was received by the Air Force in December 1979.
Conversion of 270 C-141s from A to B models was completed in 1982. C-141
modifications aim to preserve the remaining force by reliability and
maintainability improvements and capability improvements necessary for
effective use through 2006. Thirteen aircraft will receive additional SOLL
II upgrades under the Special Operations Forces Improvement program.
Sixty-three aircraft in the current C-141 fleet will undergo major
modification. Each will receive the All Weather Flight Control System (AWFCS)
consisting of a digital autopilot, advanced avionics display, and Ground
Collision Avoidance System (GCAS). Other major improvements include a
Defensive Systems (DS), Fuel Quantity Indicating System, and GPS
modifications. As a general rule, these 63 aircraft are the "youngest"
(fewest equivalent damage hours) in the fleet and will carry the weapon
system through programmed retirement in 2006.
All Weather Flight Control System (AWFCS) The AWFCS modification is
necessitated to alleviate reliability and maintainability problems
presently being experienced due to the aging (or rather aged) avionics
systems on the C-141. The system's functionality includes: autopilot,
autothrottle, yaw damping, ground collision warning, primary flight
instrument display, and warning display. LRUs installed by this
modification (4 6x8" AMLCD Display Units (DUs), 2 Automatic Flight Control
Processors (AFCPs), 2 Display Processor Units (DPUs), and 2 Display
Avionics Management Units) replace approximately 19 antiquated LRUs,
Indicators, and Controls. Additionally, a new Ground Collision Avoidance
System (GCAS) and Multi-function Standby Airspeed/Attitude/Altitude
Indicator (w/independant airdata source) are installed during this
GPS Enhanced Navigation System (GPSENS) GPSENS integrates into the AWFCS
aircraft to provide GPS based navigation and centralized and consolodated
control of the majority of aircraft communication and navigation equipment
via 3 Multifunction Control Display Units and 2 Navigational Processors.
The Fuel Saving Advisory System (FSAS) LRUs are removed and their
functionality is rehosted within the Nav. Processors.
Digital Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS) The new digital FQIS
provides a display of fuel quantity in the same manner as the old analog
system - one indicator for each tank and a totalizer to sum each
individual tank reading (except in a digital format vs the analog dail).
All components and wiring of the old system are replaced when the new
system is installed. A complete aircraft kit consists of 11 Digital Fuel
Qauntity Indicators (one part number which is interchangeable for all tank
indicator positions and totalizer), 68 Full Height Compensated (FHC) Fuel
Probes, and associated wiring. BIT capabilities facilitate ease of
maintenance and trouble shooting.
Airlift Defensive System (ADS) ADS provides C-141 aircraft with a common
self-protection capability against shoulder fired man portable
Surface-to-Air Missile threat.
L-Band Satcom System Operating on the Inmarsat and GPS satellites with
interconnection to international telex, fax and switched data networks,
the L-Band Satcom system provides automatic (and manual) data reporting
and message transfer of position reports, performance data and operational
messages on a 24 hour global basis. Coverage is provided from sea level to
55,000 feet from 70 degrees north to 70 degrees south.
Interim GPS Provisions The C-141 aircraft is equipped with provisions to
allow the use of hand-held GPS equipment. Power and antenna access plugs
are located at the aft end of the centre pedestal. Hand-held GPS units in
use consist of the Precise Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR) and the Bendix-King
KLX-100 (Comm functions not allowed for on-aircraft use).
Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) Current plans include the
installation of a TCAS on the C-141 aircraft.
Recently, the C-141 went through a series of major repairs. Wing Station
405, windshield post crack repairs and centre wing box repair/replacement
are complete. As the aircraft continues to age, it is quite possible new
structural problems may limit the readiness of the force. To slow aircraft
aging of the active duty fleet, 56 PAI aircraft have been transferred to
the UE Guard and Reserve as of FY95. Additionally, the process of retiring
high flight hour equivalent aircraft will culminate with the retirement of
the entire AMC active duty fleet by FY03.
strategic troop/cargo transport
492 kt / 567 mph
4,723 km / 2,935 miles
span 48.74 m / 159 ft 11 in
length 51.29 m / 168 ft 3.5 in
height 11.96 m / 39 ft 3 in
empty 677,186 kg / 148,120 lb
max. take-off 155,582 kg / 343,000 lb
four 9526-kg (21,000-lb) dry thrust Pratt &