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Strategic Airlift: Improvements in C-5 Mission Capability Can Help Meet
Airlift Requirements (Letter Report, 11/20/95, GAO/NSIAD-96-43).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the reliability and
mission capability of C-5 aircraft and the Department of Defense's (DOD)
plan for modifying C-5 aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) DOD is relying on C-5 aircraft to deliver about half
of the wartime cargo carried by military aircraft, but C-5 mission
capable rates have fallen short of the Air Force's goal and those of
other aircraft due to the lack of spare parts; (2) the C-5 mission
capable rate could be improved by reprioritizing C-5 modernization
initiatives and conducting readiness evaluations; (3) the Air Force has
not prioritized proposed C-5 modifications and decisionmakers have not
fully assessed the impact that these proposed improvements would have on
overall aircraft mission capability; and (4) if peacetime C-5 mission
capable rates are raised to the Air Force's current goal, DOD could
increase its C-5 airlift capability.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Strategic Airlift: Improvements in C-5 Mission Capability 
             Can Help Meet Airlift Requirements
      DATE:  11/20/95
   SUBJECT:  Military aircraft
             Military airlift operations
             Spare parts
             Defense capabilities
             Defense contingency planning
             Combat readiness
             Aircraft maintenance
             Strategic mobility forces
             Agency missions
             Military inventories
IDENTIFIER:  C-5 Aircraft
             C-5A Aircraft
             C-5B Aircraft
             C-141 Aircraft
             KC-10 Aircraft
             KC-135 Aircraft
             C-17 Aircraft
             B-1B Aircraft
             Air Force Air Mobility Master Plan
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================================================================ COVER

Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Readiness, Committee
on National Security, House of Representatives

November 1995



Strategic Airlift


=============================================================== ABBREV

  AFOTEC - Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
  AMC - Air Mobility Command
  DOD - Department of Defense
  DRIVE - Distribution and Repair in Variable Environments
  TNMCS - total not mission capable supply

=============================================================== LETTER


November 20, 1995

The Honorable Herbert H.  Bateman
Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Readiness
Committee on National Security
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

Under the new national military strategy, the Department of Defense
(DOD) must be capable of rapidly deploying armed forces to respond to
contingency and humanitarian operations around the world.  Military
strategic airlift aircraft provide the capability to fly the
critical, early arriving troops and cargo for overseas deployments. 
Since DOD is increasingly relying on the C-5 aircraft as its primary
airlifter, we assessed the reliability and mission capability of the
aircraft and DOD's current plan for modifying the C-5. 

This review was requested by the Honorable Earl Hutto, former
Chairman, Subcommittee on Readiness, House Committee on Armed
Services.  We are addressing this report to you as the current
Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Military Readiness. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC) has 104 C-5, 199 C-141,
and 16 C-17 strategic airlift aircraft in its fleet.  It also has 54
KC-10 and 448 KC-135 tanker aircraft, which can carry cargo.  The C-5
aircraft, the largest airlifter, can carry 73 troops and 36 standard
cargo pallets or outsize cargo, such as tanks and helicopters.  The
Air Force received its C-5A models from 1969 to 1973 and its C-5B
models from 1986 to 1989.  The C-5B model incorporates over 100
reliability and maintainability changes from the previous model and
has substantially higher mission capable rates. 

The C-5 has been used more than planned since Operation Desert Storm
in response to various contingencies as well as shortages of C-141
aircraft and delays in C-17 deliveries.  AMC developed a plan to
guide the modernization of the C-5 aircraft into the next century and
help ensure that the C-5 remains a viable mobility asset.  AMC
officials believe this modernization effort is important to address
concerns regarding the aging aircraft and improve the aircraft's
reliability and maintainability. 

In addition to being a major command of the Air Force, AMC is a
component of the U.S.  Transportation Command, a unified command that
provides air, land, and sea transportation for DOD.  As a component,
AMC is responsible for providing global airlift services and air
refueling operations.  AMC developed a mission capability rate goal
for the C-5 fleet of 75 percent, which means that C-5s must be able
to perform one of their major missions 75 percent of the time.\1
Mission capability is a standard used on all military aircraft that
allows for easier comparisons among aircraft.  Although Air Force
planners count on increasing aircraft mission availability in wartime
by adding more maintenance personnel and deferring some maintenance
inspections, little can be done to increase the spare parts initially
available for each plane.  Peacetime mission capability rates,
especially as they are affected by adequate spare parts availability,
are therefore good predictors of likely wartime aircraft mission
capability.  AMC currently estimates that C-5 aircraft can attain a
14.6 million ton miles per day airlift capability, which would
represent almost one-half of the Air Force's total military aircraft
airlift capacity. 

\1 We use mission capability in this report as the primary indicator
of the C-5's ability to deliver cargo.  We recognize that mission
capability rates are not a perfect measure of an aircraft's ability
to perform its mission.  For example, an aircraft may be classified
as mission capable but may break down during preflight checks, thus
rendering the aircraft not mission capable. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

DOD is counting on the C-5 to deliver almost half of the cargo
carried by military aircraft in wartime, but its mission capable
rates have generally been below AMC's 75 percent goal over the last
several years.  In addition, C-5 mission capable rates are
considerably below those of other military airlift aircraft,
including the C-141, KC-10, and KC-135.  In recent years, between
one-quarter and one-half of the C-5 total not mission capable time
was due to the lack of spare parts.  Officials from the C-5
manufacturer believe that improving the C-5 spares processes,
particularly by scheduling repairs of spare parts based on their
impact on mission capability, could substantially improve the mission
capable rate. 

The C-5 mission capable rate could also be improved if the Air Force
conducted a readiness evaluation similar to one recently completed
for the B-1B aircraft.  That evaluation found that the B-1B's mission
capable rates could increase if spare parts support were to improve. 
Air Force officials attribute the substantially improved mission
capable rates recently achieved by the B-1B fleet (an increase of 9
percentage points) primarily to improved spares availability. 

The Air Force has not prioritized proposed C-5 modifications
according to which one would contribute most to improving mission
capability.  As a result, decisionmakers cannot fully assess the
impact proposed improvements could have on overall aircraft mission
capability or total airlift capability. 

Improving the C-5 spares program and reprioritizing C-5 modernization
initiatives would increase C-5 mission capable rates.  If peacetime
C-5 mission capable rates could be raised to the current AMC goal of
75 percent, DOD could gain an additional 1.3 million ton miles per
day of C-5 wartime airlift capability--the equivalent of 10 C-17s. 
As a result, DOD could come closer to meeting military airlift

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

Mission capable rates for AMC C-5 aircraft averaged just under 68
percent from July 1994 to June 1995.\2 These rates have been
declining since Operation Desert Storm, when AMC achieved mission
capable rates of 75 percent or higher.  In addition, the C-5 mission
capable rates were considerably below comparable airlift and tanker
aircraft during the same period, as shown in table 1.1.  For example,
AMC C-5 mission capable rates averaged over 5 percentage points below
those of the troubled C-141 aircraft, which is gradually being
retired.  Factors accounting for the relatively poorer C-5 mission
capable rates included inadequate spare parts support, higher
complexity associated with a large aircraft, and the generally poorer
reliability characteristics of the older C-5A model aircraft. 

                               Table 1.1
                 Mission Capable Rates for AMC Aircraft
                      From July 1994 to June 1995

                          (Figures in percent)

Aircraft                                                        e rate
--------------------------------------------------------------  ------
C-5                                                               67.9
C-141                                                             73.2
KC-10                                                             88.7
KC-135                                                            85.5

\2 During this same period, the mission capable rate for the entire
Air Force C-5 fleet, including Reserve and National Guard aircraft,
averaged about 65 percent. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.1

C-5 aircraft are classified as not mission capable when they are
either undergoing maintenance or lack spare parts.  Between 25 and 50
percent of all not mission capable problems in recent years have been
due to a lack of spare parts, as shown in figure 1.1. 

   Figure 1.1:  Percent of C-5 Not
   Mission Capable Rates
   Attributable to a Lack of Spare
   Parts From October 1992 to June

   (See figure in printed

AMC has established a goal that the total not mission capable supply
(TNMCS) rate should not exceed 7 percent for its operational C-5
fleet.  Although the TNMCS rate has shown some improvement in the
last few years, it still remains considerably above AMC's goal, as
shown in figure 1.2. 

   Figure 1.2:  AMC C-5 TNMCS
   Rates From October 1991 to June

   (See figure in printed

Air Force officials said that the C-5 has historically not received
enough spare parts primarily because spare parts procurement was
budgeted and allocated based on the number of programmed flying
hours.  Also, the Air Force funds C-5 spares based on a projected
12.6-percent TNMCS rate.  Since the C-5 has been exceeding the number
of planned flying hours each year, fleetwide TNMCS rates have been
even higher than 12.6 percent; in fiscal year 1994, for example, the
rate was about 16.5 percent. 

Air Force personnel are sometimes able to work around spare parts
shortages by taking parts from one aircraft and using them for
another (referred to as cannibalization).  According to a recent C-5
Program Management Review, cannibalization tends to decrease the life
expectancy of aircraft systems and consumes vast amounts of labor
that could better be employed elsewhere.  AMC's goal is one
cannibalization action a month per aircraft.  Figure 1.3 shows that
AMC C-5 aircraft cannibalization actions have remained at a level
well above the AMC standard for several years. 

   Figure 1.3:  Cannibalizations
   per AMC C-5 Aircraft From
   October 1992 to June 1995

   (See figure in printed

To address the spare parts problem, the Air Force changed its
calculation method for fiscal year 1994 to recognize that the C-5 has
been flying more than its number of programmed hours.  Also, for
fiscal year 1994, the Air Force allowed some high-priority weapon
systems, such as the C-5, to receive more spare parts funding than
lower priority systems.  These changes may have partly accounted for
the improved TNMCS rate during fiscal year 1995.  However, neither
change had helped improve the cannibalization rate. 

For fiscal year 1996, the Air Force has proposed raising C-5 spares
funding to a level designed to achieve a 7.5-percent TNMCS rate
rather than the current 12.6-percent goal.  Air Force officials
expect raising the spares support level will add about $4.6 million
to annual C-5 spares costs. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.2

The C-5's mission capability rates could increase if the Air Force
were to conduct a readiness evaluation similar to the operational
readiness assessment conducted for B-1B bomber aircraft.  That
assessment, conducted by the Secretary of the Air Force at the
direction of the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act, was to
determine if the B-1B could sustain a 75-percent readiness rate,
about 18 percentage points higher than it was achieving at that time. 
The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) was
enlisted as an independent agent to direct the test and report on the
assessment activities.  An AFOTEC official estimated the total costs
of conducting the assessment was about $2.2 million. 

During the B-1B operational assessment, AFOTEC used the results from
a test wing to project that the B-1B fleet could achieve mission
capable rates of 75 percent by better managing spare parts repair
cycles and making better use of existing spares with few new assets. 
AFOTEC also found that these changes would increase annual program
funding by $11 million to $12 million over and above funds already
committed for various improvements, initiatives, and spare parts. 
AFOTEC's findings were evaluated by the DOD Operational Test and
Evaluation Agency as well as by us.\3 Both evaluations supported
AFOTEC's conclusions. 

After the assessment was completed, the test wing's mission capable
rate rose to 84 percent, and the entire fleet mission capable rate
rose to 66 percent.  According to the DOD Operational Test and
Evaluation Agency, the primary reason the mission capable rate
increased was better spares support--that is, more spares available
at the test location and faster turnaround at the intermediate or
depot levels.  Leadership attention and the significance of the test
were important motivating factors, but the mission capable rate could
not have been raised without spare parts improvements.  Maintenance
downtime was reduced when spares were immediately available, and more
spares lessened the chance that parts would have to be cannibalized. 

One of the major factors accounting for better B-1B spare parts
support was the use of the Distribution and Repair in Variable
Environments (DRIVE) model.  DRIVE manages repair requirements by
prioritizing repairs based on their effect on mission capable rates. 
Current systems, including the one used for the C-5, prioritize
repairs based only on the amount of time the part has been in the
repair process.  In addition, a 1992 Rand report advocated using the
DRIVE model to emphasize the effect of repairs on mission capability
rather than relying on more traditional indicators.\4 The Air Force
mandated use of the DRIVE system at its depots in January 1994, but
the system has not yet been implemented by the San Antonio Air
Logistics Center, the C-5 depot. 

Although the C-5 and B-1B are different aircraft with different
missions, we believe a C-5 readiness evaluation could yield similar
results to those experienced during the B-1B evaluation.  For
example, both aircraft have had historically low mission capable
rates and poor spare parts support.  Also, before the B-1B test, Air
Force officials did not think the mission capable rate for the B-1B
could be raised nearly as high as the evaluation later demonstrated. 
However, the officials are now projecting a fleetwide increase in
B-1B mission capable rates of 15 percentage points.  Air Force
airlift officials have stated that improvements to the spares process
would have little impact on C-5 mission capability.  However, we
think improvements similar to the B-1B spare parts process changes
could be applied to the C-5 spares process as well. 

Officials from the C-5 manufacturer stated that improving the C-5
spares process by analyzing parts that most affect mission capable
rates, similar to the DRIVE model philosophy, and improving the spare
parts pipeline could result in a 40-percent reduction in TNMCS rates. 
That reduction would increase the mission capable rate fleetwide by
about 6.6 percentage points.  An increase of this magnitude would
give DOD an additional 1.3 million ton miles a day of cargo-carrying
capability--the equivalent of 10 C-17 aircraft. 

AMC officials identified several difficulties in reducing TNMCS rates
for the C-5 aircraft by 40 percent.  Officials noted that the
practical requirement to maintain an aircraft at each of the two
active bases for cannibalization constitutes a significant portion of
the TNMCS rate.  They further noted that aircraft undergoing
refurbishment or unit inspections also contribute to the TNMCS rate. 
Notwithstanding this position, we note that if AMC achieved its
7-percent TNMCS goal, it would have accomplished about a 40-percent
reduction in the TNMCS rate--which C-5 manufacturer officials

\3 B-1B Bomber:  Evaluation of Air Force Report on B-1B Operational
Readiness Assessment (GAO/NSIAD-95-151, July 18, 1995). 

\4 DRIVE (Distribution and Repair in Variable Environments): 
Enhancing the Responsiveness of Depot Repair, Rand Corporation, 1992. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

AMC established a C-5 modernization plan to increase mission
capability rates and reduce personnel requirements and life-cycle
costs.  According to AMC officials, modification initiatives are
generally prioritized based on potential reliability and
maintainability improvements to the aircraft as well as cost.  The
resulting priorities are later modified and updated by various
reviewing officials.  AMC's top 10 proposed modifications, at the
time of our review, and our estimate of their impact on mission
capability, are shown in table 1.2.  Many of these modifications will
not be funded until at least the year 2000 and completed several
years after that. 

                               Table 1.2
                Impact of Top 10 Proposed Modifications
                          to the C-5 Aircraft

                         (Dollars in millions)

                                                       Our estimate of
                                                           increase in
Priority  Modification                          Cost   capability rate
--------  --------------------------------  --------  ----------------
1         Autopilot replacement               $263.2               0.5
2         Engine turbine improvement           355.0               0.7
3         Engine vapor barrier                   5.0                 0
4         Floor corrosion prevention             6.2                 0
5         Courier compartment flooring          86.1                 0
6         Cabin outflow drain pan                1.3                 0
7         D-sump lube line                       0.6               0.1
8         Smart engine diagnostics               9.0               0.3
9         Nose landing gear door                 0.3               0.1
10        Hydraulic valve replacement            2.2               1.1
Total                                         $728.9               2.8
Even though we were able to calculate potential mission capable rate
increases for each of the top priority modifications, AMC has not
analyzed how much the modifications would contribute to increasing
mission capability.  Until AMC does that analysis, decisionmakers
cannot consider the impact that the proposed improvements could have
on mission capability or total airlift capability.  Also, if AMC
considered mission capability increases as a key factor in
prioritizing planned C-5 modifications, the current order of
priorities would most likely change.  However, we recognize that AMC
might have to consider other factors, such as safety considerations,
when it prioritizes modifications. 

We identified the 10th-priority modification--hydraulic valve
replacement--as being relatively low in cost but having the most
potential for increasing aircraft mission capability.  Failures
associated with the C-5's hydraulic system are one of the leading
causes of reliability problems.  The hydraulic valve replacement is
designed to eliminate surges when opening selector valves on the
landing gear, cargo doors, and ramps.  Because this modification was
only recently identified as one of the top 10 priorities, it has not
been scheduled for funding.  However, AMC estimated that the
modification could be funded as early as fiscal year 1997. 

The C-5 manufacturer estimates that failures in hydraulic system
plumbing, mounting fixtures, and components should decrease by
two-thirds to three-fourths when the hydraulic valve modification is
completed.  More importantly, the 1.1-percentage point potential
increase in C-5 mission capability resulting from the modification
would provide DOD with an additional 0.18 million ton miles per day
of cargo-carrying capability--equating to 1.4 C-17 aircraft. 

In comparison, the two top priority modifications--autopilot
replacement and engine turbine improvement--would likely only
increase mission capability a little at a relatively large cost. 
Other high-priority efforts, such as floor corrosion prevention and
courier compartment flooring, are improvements that would not result
in any potential increase in aircraft mission capability. 

DOD has not been providing adequate funding to meet the original
schedule for proposed C-5 improvements.  For example, two major
upgrades to improve the C-5's reliability, the malfunction detection
analysis and recording system and the main landing gear actuator,
were first identified in fiscal year 1985 and scheduled to be
completed by fiscal year 1994.  However, funding delays have
stretched these modifications by 4 years to fiscal year 1998. 
According to our 1992 report,\5 one of the major factors contributing
to the C-141's recent severe problems was inadequate funding to
implement necessary modifications.  AMC stated in its 1995 Air
Mobility Master Plan that not completing scheduled improvements would
degrade capability and increase operating costs. 

\5 Military Airlift:  Structural Problems Did Not Hamper C-141
Success in Desert Shield/Storm (GAO/NSIAD-93-75, Dec.  29, 1992). 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

We recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of
the Air Force to (1) conduct a readiness evaluation to determine how
C-5 peacetime mission capability can be improved and the costs of
such improvements and (2) assess the impact of proposed aircraft
modifications on C-5 mission capability and then reprioritize the
proposals according to the results of the assessment. 

We also recommend that the Secretary direct the Commander in Chief,
U.S.  Transportation Command, to include in strategic mobility
planning the potential increase in airlift cargo capability made
possible by a higher C-5 mission capable rate. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

DOD partially concurred with our report (see app.  I).  DOD stated
that it has initiated some actions that would satisfy the intent of
our recommendation that the Air Force conduct a readiness evaluation. 
These actions include conducting a 1994 logistics demonstration
project to improve and streamline the C-5 management structure and
policies for handling spare parts and repairing components, as well
as incorporating lessons learned from the B-1B operational readiness
assessment to better manage the C-5 program.  Although these actions
are good first steps, DOD must ensure that they are fully
implemented.  In particular, DOD needs to use the DRIVE model, which
was successfully demonstrated during the B-1B assessment, to allocate
C-5 spare parts and prioritize their repair. 

DOD agreed with our recommendation that the Air Force assess the
impact of proposed aircraft modifications on mission capability and
reprioritize the modifications accordingly.  DOD noted that the San
Antonio Air Logistics Center was developing a computer model that
will be able to quantify the effects of proposed aircraft reliability
improvements on mission capability.  DOD expects this model,
scheduled for completion in July 1996, to help improve the method for
prioritizing C-5 modifications. 

DOD did not agree with our recommendation that the Transportation
Command's strategic mobility planning include the potential increase
in C-5 cargo capability resulting from a higher mission capable rate. 
DOD stated that the potential cargo capability increase would not
translate directly into increases in cargo delivered to a theater of
conflict because of the limited airfield infrastructure (including
ramp space, refueling facilities, and material handling equipment). 

Although potential increases in cargo capability identified in our
report may not translate directly into cargo delivered to the theater
under some scenarios, the potential capability still exists under
more unconstrained scenarios with many available airfields or fields
with areas large enough to accommodate substantial numbers of C-5
aircraft.  To maximize potential C-5 cargo deliveries, DOD should
consider using C-5 aircraft in the more unconstrained scenarios.  DOD
bases many of its conclusions about a more capable C-5 aircraft on
studies of buying additional quantities of a new C-5D aircraft, which
has not yet been developed.  These conclusions could be substantially
different if DOD looked at current quantities of more capable
existing C-5A and C-5B aircraft.  Therefore, we continue to believe
DOD should consider the implications of more capable existing C-5
aircraft in its modeling efforts and decisions on the mix of future

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

We conducted our review at AMC, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; 436th
Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; C-5 System Program
Director's Office, San Antonio Air Logistics Center, Kelly Air Force
Base, Texas; Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, Marietta,
Georgia; and Air Force Headquarters, Washington, D.C.  We interviewed
various officials at these locations and reviewed pertinent
regulations, guidance, and reports pertaining to the subject areas. 
We also interviewed officials regarding the B-1B readiness assessment
and DRIVE model at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation
Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Air Combat Command
Headquarters, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; and Air Force
Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

To calculate potential aircraft availability and mission capability
increases, we relied on Air Force and C-5 manufacturer estimates of
increases in mission capable hours attributable to the proposed
changes.  We added the mission capable hours attributable to those
improvements to the 1994 total fleet mission capable hours and
calculated a revised mission capable rate.  We used the revised
mission capable rate to calculate a new aircraft utilization rate,
which we used to recalculate a C-5 million ton mile per day cargo
contribution.  We divided increases in the C-5 cargo contribution by
the currently estimated AMC million ton mile per day contribution of
a C-17 to determine the equivalent number of C-17s. 

We conducted our review from August 1994 to August 1995 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

We are sending copies of this report to the Ranking Minority Member
of your Subcommittee and the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of
the Senate Committee on Armed Services, House Committee on National
Security, and Senate and House Committees on Appropriations; the
Secretaries of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy; the
Commandant of the Marine Corps; the Commander in Chief,
U.S.  Transportation Command; and the Director, Office of Management
and Budget. 

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report,
please contact me at (202) 512-5140.  The major contributors to this
report are listed in appendix II. 

Sincerely yours,

Mark E.  Gebicke
Director, Military Operations
 and Capabilities Issues

(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
============================================================== Letter 

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

Now on pp.  2-6. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

Now on pp.  2, 7-8. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

Now on pp.  3, 9-10. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 1. 

Now on p.  10. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

Now on p.  11. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

The following is our comment on the Department of Defense's (DOD)
letter dated October 23, 1995. 


1.  DOD stated that it could not substantiate the additional 1.3
million ton miles per day of capability that we reported the C-5
aircraft could provide.  Our calculation was based on the 40-percent
improvement in total not mission capable supply (TNMCS) rate
projected by the C-5 manufacturer.  We discussed how we calculated
utilization rates and million ton mile contributions in the Scope and
Methodology section.  We used standard Air Mobility Command (AMC)
formulas in those calculations.  In addition, as noted in the report,
if AMC met its own 7-percent goal for TNMCS, it could achieve the
40-percent TNMCS reduction projected by the C-5 manufacturer. 

========================================================== Appendix II


Robert Eurich
James Murphy


Gregory Symons
Claudia Saul
Norman Trowbridge

*** End of document. ***