Last week, a US Air Force Lockheed C-5A Galaxy landed at the Air Mobility Command Museum, located at Dover AFB in Dover, Delaware. The plane arrived with just a few day’s notice, moved from its operating base in Memphis to clear tarmac space. Due to accounting weirdness relating to the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, the plane will not officially belong to the museum until October, however.
This Galaxy is one of several that were cut from the Air Force’s Avionics Modernization Program, which left it with an outdated, legacy avionics suite for which there are no longer any crews in the service that were qualified to operate the “antique” equipment.
One of the first run of Galaxys, 69-0014 is notable for being the only plane to have launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Concerned that the Soviets would be able to knock out ICBMs in their fixed silos, the Pentagon conceived of loading the huge missile into a C-5 and launching it while in flight, which would provide a for an extremely mobile launch system that would be near impossible to wipe out in a first strike. The test took place on October 24, 1974, when 69-0014 was loaded up with the missile in a special cradle at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
At altitude, 20,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, the rear cargo doors were opened and the Minuteman missile was dragged out by two deployed parachutes. The launch went off as planned with the rocket sliding out of the back of the plane, falling tail first, before its engines engaged and the rocket shot up to 30,000 feet. While the test was considered a complete success, it was never repeated, which is probably for the best because it really looks like an accident waiting to happen.
See for yourself:
The plane will officially be turned over to the museum at some time in October, and the museum is planning an acceptance ceremony in November, however it will be some time before the plane is opened up to the public as the museum needs to de-militarize the plane and make it safe for guests. They’re also planning on returning the plane to its original two tone white and light grey livery, replacing the dark grey paint job the plane currently sports. Once opened, it will be the only Galaxy accessible to the public anywhere, and the centerpiece of the museums already impressive collection.