Air Force Works to Extend Life of C-130 Fleet

Air Force Works to Extend Life of C-130 Fleet

The U.S. Air Force is working to extend the service life of its fleet of C-130 combat delivery aircraft by replacing center wing boxes on some of the planes and adding new avionics, electronics and instrumentation, service officials told Military​.com.

The modernization effort encompasses maintenance and technological improvements to the older C-130 H-model planes as well at the more modern C-130J aircraft, said Col. Robert Toth, division chief for special operations, rescue and trainer programs.

The Air Force now operates 362 C-130s, including 260 H-models and 102 more modern J-models. Overall, the services’ fiscal year 2015 budget calls for the delivery of 134 J-models and maintenance of 194 H-models for a total force size of 328 C-130s, service officials said.

The service eventually expects to buy a total of 168 J-models at an estimated cost of $15.8 billion, according to Pentagon acquisition figures from December. About $10 billion of that has already been spent on the program.

Compared with the legacy H-models, J-model aircraft are configured with more powerful engines and modernized cockpit technology, avionics and instrumentation, Toth added.

Unlike the older 1970s-era gauges built onto the H-model planes, the C-130Js are configured with digital moving maps, upgraded flight management systems and instrumentation on glass displays, Toth explained.

The C-130J aircraft have a better short take-off-and-landing ability, climb rate and range compared to the H-model planes, he said.

Ongoing upgrades to the C-130H aircraft add an additional 40,000 hours of flying time to the plane and extend the life of the H-model aircraft out to 2040 or 2045, Toth added.

“We look at compliance issues for airspace requirements, obsolescence issues and look at overall modernization and structural integrity issues of the aircraft to keep the planes flying for the next 30-years,” Toth said.

One of the key elements of the modernization effort includes replacing the center wing boxes of the aircraft, the part of the aircraft’s structure which sits over the fuselage and ties the two wings together.

“It is the key element to hold the wings onto the airplane. Over time, cracks in the wing box could create structural failure of the wings,” Toth added.

Engineered to take-off, land and operate in more rugged environments, the propeller-driven C-130s have been work horse aircraft over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan; they regularly transport supplies such as ammo, food, water and medical supplies to forward-operating troops located on small bases in or near difficult or mountainous terrain. C-130s are engineered to conduct air drops in areas where a landing strip is not available.

“They are transport aircraft for moving equipment and forces to forward operating bases. C 130-s go to remote airfields and airfields that are small. They can operate in terrain that is too difficult for the bigger strategic airlifters to get into,” Toth said.

Unlike C-17 jet engines which have large spaces where rocks, dirt and debris could enter and get caught, C-130 propeller engines have a much smaller opening, making them more able to land in an austere environment, said Lt. Col. Grant Mizell, C-130 program element monitor.

“Jet engines are primed for high speeds and high altitudes — but they burn a lot more gas. They have space where the engine can suck up rocks and debris. A propeller is fuel-efficient at lower altitudes and slightly slower speeds and it can land on a dirt runway. There is a small opening in the engine so you don’t suck up a whole bunch of debris,” Mizell said.

Some of the C-130s are also being outfitted with improved, crash-worthy seats and defensive systems such as infrared countermeasures designed to better protect them against ground attacks.

Also, the aircraft are being engineered to be fully compliant with domestic and international FAA airspace requirements by 2020, Toth said. This means improvements to radios, communication equipment, navigation technology and flight management systems, he added.

The upgrades are described at communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management, or CNS ATM.  The new radios will give air traffic control a better way to monitor aircraft, he explained.

Some of the work is being done at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Toth said.

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So does that mean that the $10 billion C-130 AMP program is now officially terminated, or does it continue to limp along. The US Air Force “saved us” $4 billion by cancelling the program in 2012 after spending $10 billion and not getting a single operational airplane to show for all the money spent. It’s kinda like the money we “saved” by cancelling the Crusader program after not building a single vehicle, or the money we “saved” on the B-2 program after building just 20 airplanes, or the Army’s FMC program that wasted hundreds of billions of dollars only to be cancelled without providing anything useful, or F-22 that was cancelled after $100 billion had been spent, only to get 170 airplanes. Now we’re clamoring for the Air Force to “save us” some money again after hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on F-35 only to end up with nothing. It’s one thing to be stupid enough to get scammed by these defense contractors, but it’s another to actually be thankful for the screwing.

We only save “projected funnymoneyfuturedollars”, but then there’s “opportunity cost funnymoneyfuturedollars” that we never seem to take into account.

Remember, the next program will be better. We will do it right next time.

Of course, the next program is never better and they never do it right the next time. The next time is always a bigger fiasco than the last one was. None the less, we continue, doggedly, to pay contractors more to screw up, more to drag a program out for as long as possible, more to jack up the prices sky high, and then we wonder why they do those things. It pisses me off and at least I take home a decent salary out of this scam. I can’t imagine why it doesn’t piss off those who don’t make any money from it much more than it seems to.

As someone who worked on the C130 AMP program, they pretty much put that program on hold.… they got rid of all the engineering teams and relocated them to elsewhere. Any knowledge of the C130 AMP program is locked up in crates in OKC…

Good to see the old Hercules still fly on too bad AMP was canceled in favor of crap we don’t need like JSF.

Looking for a fact check on your dollar figures. Congressional reports show $1.6B spent on AMP prior to cancellation. But agree with your principle… lots of course reversals that haven’t produced any good for the front line.

Right on target, Dfens. But we taxpayers should just get straight to the ultimate “save us money” and disband the Air Force, giving the Army back it close air support arm. The skies will become increasing unfriendly as smarter and smarter missiles and unmanned aircraft sweep the skies of the white scarf types (and at substantially less cost)!

It’s more profitable for the shareholders if the AMP is canned and the manufacturer makes new C-130’s. Simply instruct the USAF to FMS old C-130’s, send them to firefighters or the Boneyard.

Putting frames with structurally dubious wing boxes into firefighting service is probably not going to work out for the best.

There is horrifying video out there on the Internet of an old A-model Herk without wing box mods, pressed into service as a fire tanker, making a run in to drop retardant and then just having the wings abruptly fold up and separate at the fuselage join. The worst and last five seconds of those crew members’ lives.

Just like AMP this too will eventually be canceled and the money shoveled into the black hole hole that is the F-35 debacle.

Oh, dear God, please don’t let that happen. The F-35 is an abysmal horrendously expensive failure (even the V-22 actually had potential when it was teething) and a huge embarrassment. I feel sorry for those foreign air forces that have bought into the F-35 boondoggle. I feel sorry for our nation to depend on the F-35 for defense.

The last time that I was on a Herc was in 1969, does it have a head yet?

The H-3 and the J model even have a flush toilet at the right side of the ramp, careful though a lot of Ops guys can’t seem to aim well, helps if you give them a Hanoi Jane Urinal Sticker to aim at.

I seriously doubt that number. The original contract, that Boeing won by buying the services of government procurement director Darlene Druyun, was for $4 billion. Of that $1 billion was allocated for development of the modifications over a period of 2 to 4 years (my memory is fuzzy). Then they decided the E model wasn’t worth saving and all the money allocated for those mods were lumped into the development pool. Then the period of development went from 2 to 4 years to slightly over a decade. The program underwent a Nunn-McCurdy review before congress somewhere in the midst of that. The cost of the mod per airplane doubled and nearly tripled. Your $1.6 billion number is pure BS of the typical government kind. It’s probably valid for one of the contracts under which AMP was funded, but the roll up number for all of the contracts is certainly much closer to $10 billion than it is to $1.6 billion.

There are a lot of things that could be done and maybe should be done. For one thing, we should not have an unconstitutional force if we are to be a nation of laws. If the Air Force is worth having, then it is worth writing the constitutional amendment to allow for an Air Force. That aside, the only way we are going to get good performance out of our military is to change the way we develop weapons. We need to put an end to paying “for profit” companies a profit on development. That’s just cutting our own throats. It was stupid when it started in the early 1990’s and it’s more than proven its stupidity decades later. If companies don’t want to develop the weapons we need without that free money, then the services themselves should go back to designing their own guns, tanks, ships, rockets, helicopters, and airplanes. Its a system that worked from the founding of this nation through the Cold War, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work just as well now. That fixes the problem directly, then we can talk about the other things that need to be done. The way I see it, right now procurement is the biggest problem we have and it is not being addressed at all.

Is that where it ended up after Boeing’s little shell game of “hide the f’ed up program”?

The biggest program always has the biggest political clout. It’s like a black hole sucking money from every pocket around. That’s exactly why we have these huge “joint” programs. It’s not that suddenly everyone believes one size fits all. It’s the fact that the bigger the program is, the more political clout it has, the better it is funded, the more money it can pull away from the small programs that actually do produce good value for the taxpayer.

If I had the money I would love to buy a C130, that was the smooths flight I ever had. I sure hope the Air Force don’t get rid of them.

I hope that fake hardware will not be part of the upgrades…

Part of the problem with that old A model still exists with the new C-130J’s. You can see it from inside the cargo compartment. It’s all those layers of aluminum doublers they strap on the bottom of the middle wing joint to carry the loads. With all those layers, how do you inspect the layer closest to the wing skin for cracks? You can’t because you can’t see that doubler. Then they have 20 more doubler plates stacked one on top of the other. Not a lot of genius to that structural approach.

Why reinvent the wheel, I worked on C130s’ in the 60s’ and it is a great airplane!

pretty much, I believe they started relocating the whole program about 2–3 years ago. of course most people went to other states (WA) because they didn’t want to go to OKC.

Ultrasonic imaging is your friend for detecting cracks, even under several layers of metal. It can find cracks WITHIN solid metal; i. e., hasn’t reached the surface.

C-17’s have jet engines and do land on unimporved runways quite well. Also they don’t spend as much flying time trying to get to the action aka not burning as much fuel as a C-130 trying to get to the action at a much lower speed. And they happen to cary almost 4 times the payload of a C-130 as well as get the austire airfield much faster hours ahead of a C-130.

It wouldn’t. But you can make maintenance of old aircraft a state’s problem and get some problem airframes off of government ledgers. The aerial firefighting force is almost toast: old WW2 airframes are dropping like flies. Old C-130A’s are also toast.

There’s always scrapping them and using them for parts.


And the J model is even better!

20 years of my life where tied to the C-130,I flew B, E, H models all over the world, like the Gooey Bird before it, only more so, the Herc’ will be hard to replace!

So they have all of this money to spend on the Herc’s (which OBTW is a multipurpose airframe) but still want to kill off the Hogs.…… Things that make you go hummm.

But can ultrasonic imaging go through layer after layer of aluminum plates that are not bonded together in any other way than riveting? I think the interface between the plates significantly reduces the signal and echo.

Heck, now they’re up to scrapping the E’s.

I also worked on AMP, and yes the program is currently on hold despite having completed all of the R&D and Testing and systems were ready for final operational testing and production. Unfortunately politics and the C-130J lobbyists got to the decision makers which opted for new J-models over extending the life of the C-130H fleet, at a much higher cost..

Does the Oklahoma ANG at OKC, still use
C-130’s? If so, which model? H or J?

No they do not, they lost the 130’s approximately 7 years ago, and are now a joint unit with the 507th ARW operating 135s.

It seems that Boeing will have the last laugh on that account. In truth, not all of the systems were ready for prime time. The main one that was not ready being probably the biggest system that is tied to almost everything the airplane is supposed to do, which is the flight management system (FMS). So Lockheed, thinking AMP was all but ready to go, bought the AMP FMS to put on the J, because when the J modification was done the FAA requirements for these systems were significantly different from what they are now. They bought the AMP FMS only to find out what a piece of crap it really is, and then proceeded to spend the better part of the last decade trying to beat it into something useful. Of course, thanks to John McCain, all work on the J is done on your dollar now, not Lockheed’s, so now they’ve been able to use a remanent of that program to continue to suck the US taxpayer dry.

Hmm, now that I think of it, it’s really Lockheed that’s got the last laugh. They killed the AMP and are using the last piece of it to stick it to the US taxpayer. Damn, not even I realized they were that good (at sucking).

I am glad Rumsfeld was unable to cancel the C-130J program with only just a small few aircraft delivered.
As a perfect example of groups of critics who have no idea how new system capability is developed, they said the C-130J could not air-drop cargoes or land troops in austere environments (2005). Yet within a couple of years the USAF groups in charge of developing the capability to USE the aircraft did just that and now its the #1 work horse of USAF in air dropping cargo and landing with troops and heavy equipment in austere environments. In fact its better at it than the C-130H (not knocking the H) just saying it has even more capability than the H-model does.

Rumsfeld tried to end the contract with only 5 delivered out of a total of 60, saving $2 billion out of $2.8 billion already spent. —
The $4.1 billion five-year contract that Mr. Rumsfeld sought to end calls for the delivery of about 60 aircraft by 2008. Had Mr. Rumsfeld’s decision stood, about $2 billion would have been eliminated from the five-year program. Lockheed is expected to make another 55 C-130J’s, each with a price tag of about $66 million.

Thanks to people in charge with true knowledge of how new capability has to be developed, as stated above — The service eventually expects to buy a total of 168 J-models at an estimated cost of $15.8 billion, according to Pentagon acquisition figures from December. About $10 billion of that has already been spent on the program.

Instead of just 5 and trying to keep all the old C-130E and C-130H still flying and having higher maintenance and refurbishment costs to do so. We have a very capable and expanding fleet of C-130H and C-130J aircraft that will take care of our troops for another 30+ years


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