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C-5A Galaxy Missile Launcher Coming to Air Mobility Museum

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A huge C-5A Galaxy strategic airlifter with an unusual achievement under its belt will soon be on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The C-5A Galaxy 69-0014 during the testing of an airborne dropped LGM-30F Minuteman II over the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 24, 1974. U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Robert F. Dorr

The C-5A Galaxy 69-0014 during the testing of an air launched LGM-30F Minuteman II over the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 24, 1974. U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Robert F. Dorr

It’s the only aircraft ever to have launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in flight. On Oct. 24, 1974, this C-5A ­– aircraft No. 69-0014, deployed from Dover – launched a 78,000-pound, 60-foot LGM-30F Minuteman II ICBM from its cargo ramp high over the Pacific Ocean.

Now, 69-0014 has been slotted for display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover. With a wingspan greater than 222 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of 840,000 pounds, the Galaxy will become the museum’s largest display item. Museum director Michael Leister said an exact date for the big plane’s arrival is still being determined, and that it will be a popular exhibit. “We had C-5As at Dover for many years,” Leister told Defense Media Network. “There is a lot of interest in what this one did.”

C-5 Minuteman Airdrop-2

A closer shot of the Minuteman II being pulled nose-first on its launch cradle from the C-5. The cradle dropped away and the missile was pulled to the vertical by parachutes, then its rocket motor was fired. U.S. Air Force via Robert F. Dorr

In an era when the United States and the Soviet Union were confronting each other with nuclear arsenals, both pondered ways to make their ICBMs less vulnerable, including launching them from railroad cars or from aircraft in flight.

The unique test proved something, but perhaps not what the planners intended. After the Minuteman fell for a few thousand feet retarded by huge parachutes, its rocket motor ignited and the missile flew for ten seconds under its own power. The test was not considered a success, the Soviets never conducted a similar one, and a proposal to develop a Boeing 747-200 as an ICBM air-launch vehicle never materialized.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...