Pictures of C-141B 64-0649 being towed out of AMARC
Lockheed C-141C Starlifter 66-7953 from the 445th Airlift Wing based at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. The aircraft is seen shortly after
it's arrival at AMARC, fastened securely to the ground by chains in Area 18. The 445th is the last unit to operate the C-141 and at the
time of the retirement of this aircraft, June 16, 2005, only ten of the type remain operational.
The Lockheed Model 300 air lifter was designed in response to President John F. Kennedy’s first official act after inauguration: to develop an all-jet powered transport, to extend the
reach of US military forces around the world. In March 1961 the C-141 was born. Using the same internal cross-section as its stable mate, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules (10 ft X 9 ft), the ‘StarLifter’
first took to the air on 17 December 1963.
Designed with a pressurized cabin and crew station, the C-141 is very versatile, able to be quickly converted to any of about thirty cargo or troop-carrying
configurations. The C-141 can carry a variety of palletized cargo including most wheeled vehicles in the US inventory, as well as 205 passengers, or 168 fully equipped paratroopers. For medical evacuation,
the –141 can carry 103 litter patients, or 113 ambulatory patients, or a combination of the two. Some C-141’s were modified to carry the LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles in their
The StarLifter participated throughout the war in Vietnam, making nearly daily trips to Southeast Asia with troops and supplies for the effort, and evacuating casualties
back to the States. They were the aircraft that landed in Hanoi to return US POW’s to America during 1973’s Operation Homecoming.
Early on, a major flaw was found in the StarLifter. It was
discovered that the aircraft was volume-limited, that is, it was often fully loaded well before it reached its maximum weight limit. In the mid-Seventies, Lockheed proposed “stretching” the –141’s
fuselage. Under an ambitious contract, 270 of the existing 274 StarLifters were fitted with two “plugs”, one forward and one aft of the wing, adding twenty-three feet to the fuselage length, as well
as an in-flight refueling receptacle for extended range. The first converted C-141B took to the air in December 1979, and the conversion program was completed on 30 June 1982.
The StarLifter “stretch” provided a thirty percent increase in cargo capacity, or looked at another way, the increased length gave Military Airlift Command the equivalent of 90 additional aircraft.
-141's that were never converted to "B's" were the oldest StarLifters in service. They served at Wright-Patterson, and later Edwards AFB as test aircraft, the NC-141A's. These airframes, from the
initial batch of StarLifters off the Lockheed production line (including the very first production C-141), were used throughout their careers for various test work, including projects for NASA
and developing fly-by-wire systems for large aircraft. The last of the NC's was retired to AMARC on 7 August 1998.
Lockheed's StarLifter has participated in every major US action since 1964.
The Cold War, Vietnam, and Operation Nickel Grass, the emergency airlift of arms and equipment to Israel during the Yom Kippur war in October 1973. Since 1974, C-141's have operated from Christchurch,
New Zealand in support of Operation Deep Freeze, shuttling personnel and supplies to the Antarctic Continent. It was the StarLifter that brought the hostages home from Tehran, Iran in 1981.
The C-141 participated in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in October 1983, and Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama in December 1989, dropping paratroopers during each action. On 20 December 1989, StarLifters dropped 2,000 troopers over the Omar Torrijos Airport near Panama City,
the largest airborne assault since World War Two.
4th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B
7th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B
8th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B 437th AW
16th AS Charleston AFB, SC. C-141B 305th AMW
6th AS McGuire AFB, NJ. C-141B
13th AS McGuire AFB, NJ. C-141B 443rd AW
57th AS Altus AFB, OK. C-141B
Air National Guard (ANG)
155th AS Memphis IAP, TN. C-141B/C 172nd AW
183rd AS Jackson IAP, MS. C-141B/C
Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC)
707th AS Charleston AFB, SC. C-141B 445th AW
89th AS Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. C-141B/C
356th AS Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. C-141B/CV 446th AW
97th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B
313th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B
728th AS McChord AFB, WA. C-141B 452nd AMW
729th AS March ARB, CA. C-141B/C
730th AS March ARB, CA. C-141B/C 459th AW
756th AS Andrews AFB, Wash, DC. C-141B/C
702nd AS McGuire AFB, NJ. C-141B
732nd AS McGuire AFB, NJ. C-141B
Air Education and Training Command (AETC)
57th AS Altus AFB, OK C-141B
The shining moment for the StarLifter though, was during the Desert Shield buildup between August and December 1990. It was a StarLifter from the 437th Military Airlift Wing, Charleston South Carolina that brought the first US forces
into Saudi Arabia, transporting an airlift control element from the 438th Military Airlift Wing out of McGuire Air Force Base to begin the oversight of the huge volume of airlift traffic coming in from the United States. Over the next year, the StarLifter fleet flew the most airlift
missions- 7,047 out of 15,800 in support of the war against Iraq, carrying more than 41,400 passengers, and hauling better than 139,600 tons of freight.
Following Desert Storm, Special Operations Command put Lockheed's StarLifter to use for covert ops as well. Thirteen examples
of C-141B have received the Raytheon/E-Systems SOLL/SOLL II (Special Operations Low Level) modification, which added low-level penetration and self-protection systems to the airframe. Various "lumps and bumps" have sprouted on the fuselage, housing upgraded navigation/communication systems,
Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) turret, Radar Warning Receiver, and infrared and missile plume detectors.
The aging of the fleet through the Nineties and into the turn of the century has become a major concern. The fleet is nearing the seven million flight hour mark. Following conversion
to the 'B' model, airframe life was projected at 45,000 flight hours. Production delays of the -141's replacement, the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) C-17 Globemaster III, coupled with new USAF requirements for low-altitude penetration of strategic airlifters, has served to accelerate wear and
tear on the StarLifter fleet. Wing cracks and other fatigue stresses have been discovered, far short of the projected airframe hour limits.
As a result, force reduction in active-duty Air Force units has begun. It is expected that the StarLifter will be retired from the front line AMC
wings by 2003. The "youngest" 63 airframes will undergo major modifications, such as the All Weather Flight Control System, (AWFCS) which incorporates a digital autopilot, advanced avionics displays, GPS, SatCom, and Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS). These airframes, the "glass cockpit"
C-141C's, are expected to serve the AFRC and ANG units through 2006. Still, the end is in sight. The proud career of Lockheed's Model 300 strategic airlifter is winding down, with many examples silent now, languishing in the heat of the southwestern desert of the United States.
Production, Variants, Serials:
C-141A: 284 StarLifters, built between 1961 and 1967. 61-2775 to 61-2779; 63-8075 to 63-8090; 64-0609 to 64-0653; 65-0216 to 65-0281; 65- 9397 to 65-9414; 66-0126 to 66-0209; 66-7944 to 66-7959; 67-0001 to 67-0031; 67-0164 to 67-0166.
NC-141A: Four C-141A's, not converted to C-141B: 61-2775 to 61-2777, 61-2779.
C-141B All C-141A except for the four NC-141A's, and nine that were lost in accidents before conversion: 63-8077, 64-0641, 65-0274, 65-9407, 66-0127, 67-0006, 67-0008 and 67-0030.
C-141C: 63 low-hour C-141B variants, being fitted with "glass cockpit" cathode-ray tube displays for the pilot and copilot, serial numbers unknown.