C-141 STARLIFTER gallery

(C-141A image). In the 1950s the air transport of the USAF depended on the C-124 Globemaster II and C-133 Cargomaster turbo-propeller aircraft, ineffective for strategic transport. That is why they open a contest for a new aircraft equipped with turbofans able to travel to 13,000 km away with a 36 tons payload. Proposals were submitted by Boeing, Convair, Douglas and Lockheed, which was the winner with its “Model 300“.
(C-141A image). On December 17, 1963, the C-141 Starlifter made its maiden flight, the same day on which the 60th Wright brothers’ first flight anniversary was celebrated. The flight tests were performed by four of the first five C-141A series aircraft under designation NC-141A. In this period, the general behavior of the aircraft together with maintenance work to be performed was evaluated. None of these aircraft would be subsequently transformed to variant B or C.
(C-141A image). Once the Lockheed assembly line was put into action, it was able to produce a C-141 every three days. Afterwards, rigorous tests were carried out on the ground and in flight to detect faults, and once these were solved, the aircraft was revised again before Lockheed delivered the new aircraft to its corresponding unit within the USAF.
(C-141A image). The C-141A entered service in a bare metal color, used by the USAF to save weight and the subsequent maintenance of the aircraft’s appearance. It was estimated that paint added about 500 kg of weight, which also influenced the consumption of the aircraft. Nevertheless, the paint protected them enormously against corrosion of the airframe and it was necessary. In 1971 the Starlifters were painted in a white-over-gray scheme that were maintained until the end of the 70s. Then, most of the C-141 were repainted in a camouflage scheme, although some remained with the previous scheme until the 90s.
(C-141A image). The C-141A had two large rear doors and a ramp that allowed the transport of bulky loads in its huge cargo bay of 3.05 meters wide, 2.74 meters high and 21 meters long. Both the rear doors and the ramp could be opened in flight up to speeds of 250 km/h without affecting the stability of the aircraft. This ability allowed to perform low-altitude air drops of supplies and rapid launch of paratroopers.
(C-141A image). The engines chosen for the C-141 Starlifter were four powerful Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans, the most powerful version of those installed on aircraft such as the B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker. This turbofan has been so reliable that not a single C-141 has been lost during its 43 years of service due to engine failure, a spectacular record.
(C-141A image). The C-141A payload was about 32 tons and could consist of ten standard 463L master pallets, 154 equipped soldiers, 123 paratroopers or 80 stretchers as a medicalized plane. Some Starlifters were prepared to carry containers with LGM-30 Minuteman ICBM missiles, weighing approximately 42 tons.
(C-141A image). The versatility of C-141 is evident in the number of missions it could carry out. Lockheed developed a total of 19 different demountable kits to configure the aircraft according to the required mission. Their tasks ranged from basic cargo hauler, medical evacuation, parachute operations or VIP transport, and the configurations could be assembled in a matter of hours, with the exception of the VIP configuration, which took 24 hours to install. Each unit had 4 basic kits for each aircraft.
(C-141A image). In early August 1965 a C-141A of the 1501 Air Transport Wing (ATW) made its first combat mission by carrying more than 11 tons of cargo to Saigon, Vietnam. At the end of 1965 the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) already had 65 Starlifters in service. This figure would be progressively increased to 284 aircraft, the last of which would be delivered in 1968.
In the C-141A model the curious circumstance occurred that aircraft’s cargo bay was filled before reaching the maximum payload limit. This means that it ran out of space though the aircraft could carry more weight. Because of this, it was decided to add a section of 7.11 meters long that would increase its internal volume by 322.71 m3 and its payload by 10.700 kg. In addition, an in-flight refueling equipment was installed to extend its range, giving rise to variant C-141B. In this picture its clearly visible the difference in size between both variants, B in the foreground and A in the background.
(C-141B image). Another of the main reasons for the conversion of the fleet to the C-141B variant was the lack of range. In 1973, during a support mission to Israel during Yom Kippur War, several US allies refused to allow the use of their air bases for these operations. This caused only the C-5 Galaxy to make direct flights from the United States to Israel.
(C-141B image). The “stretch program” affected 270 C-141A and lasted from 1977 to 1982, returning to service the first updated C-141B in December 1979. The stretch consisted of adding two sections, one in front and one behind the wings, and it was calculated that the increase in the C-141 fleet’s cargo capacity was the same as if the USAF had incorporated another ninety C-141A.
(C-141B image). It took around two months of work to transform a C-141 from variant A to B, with Lockheed achieving a rate of 10 converted aircraft per month. From 284 C-141 Starlifter built, all but four of the NC-141A tests and ten aircraft lost in accidents were transformed.
(C-141B image). The load capacity of the C-141B was significantly increased, allowing to take 205 equipped soldiers, 168 paratroopers or 103 stretchers as an air ambulance. In addition, it was increase from 138 to 188 the number of passengers sitting in seats if necessary. The payload was also increased, being able to carry up to 13 standard 463L master pallets.
(C-141B image). C-141 Starlifter were especially suitable for low-altitude air drops, in which they could launched from supplies to vehicles prepared for such missions. During Operation Just Cause, carried out in Panama at the end of 1989, the C-141 launched eight M-551 Sheridan light tanks that reached the ground without problems. They could also carry other vehicles such as armoured personnel carriers or M-270 multiple launch rocket systems.
(C-141B image). C-141 was designed to fly smoothly for about 30,000 hours and every 3,000 flight hours the Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) was carried out in which the aircraft was thoroughly checked for signs of fatigue. The circumstance occurs that the C-141 had to stay in service longer than expected due to the delays suffered by its successor, the C-17A Globemaster III. The longevity record was marked by a C-141C that made 46,732 flight hours before being retired.
(C-141B image). During the 43 years of service of the C-141 model, 21 aircraft were lost in accidents, although none by enemy fire. According to reports made after each accident, no aircraft was lost due to structural defects or mechanical problems, being the human factor the cause of the losses. The reliability ratio is very high considering the number of aircraft manufactured and its long active life.
(C-141B image). In 1994, thirteen C-141B from the 437th Military Airlift Wing were modified with special equipment to perform SOLL II (Special Operations Low-Level II) missions. The defensive countermeasures were increased, low-level night flying capability was also improved and the navigation equipment was updated. Finally a FLIR turret was installed on top of the aircraft’s nose.
(C-141C image). In the 90’s, due to the fact that C-141 was going to remain in service longer than expected due to the delay of the C-17A aircraft, USAF decided to replace the center wing box at 63 C-141Bs. The reason was that cracks and excess fatigue were found on some aircraft. The new aircraft were designated as C-141C and the modification works were entirely carried out by the personnel of Robins AFB, Georgia.
(C-141C image). In addition to the replacement of the center wing box, it was decided to modify the cockpit with new glazing and replace some of the mechanical and electromechanical controls with more modern electronic type. This updating was also used to change part of the wiring and install new navigation and avionics equipment.
(C-141B image). The C-141s have participated in all the operations carried out by the United States since the late 60’s. They flew extensively in Vietnam, then transported almost 11,000 tons of cargo to Israel during the Yom Kippur War and in 1983 they carried the 82nd Airborne Division and part of the 75th Rangers Regiment to the Island of Grenada.
(C-141B image). At the end of 1989 they carried two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment to Panama including some armoured vehicles, which were launched in flight for the first time on a real combat mission. Later in 1990, they carried out the most important mission until that date, the deployment of forces during Operation Desert Shield.
(C-141B image). Operation Desert Shield was the first strategic transport mission for the C-141 Starlifter. During this mission and the subsequent Operation Desert Storm, the Starlifters carried out more than 8,500 missions in which they transported more than 93,000 passengers and almost 150,000 tons of cargo. From 1992 to 1994 they were in Somalia and in the late 1990s they were deployed in the Balkans.
(C-141B image). The last real missions would be carried out during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2004 the C-141 began to be withdrawn from the USAF, being assigned to units of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units, where their active careers would end.

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