C-130E is an extended-range development of the C-130B, with two underwing fuel tanks and increased range and endurance capabilities. A total of 369 were ordered for MAC (now AMC) and TAC (now ACC), with deliveries beginning in April 1962. Military Airlift Command is the primary user, with more than 200 E models. The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard also fly the E model.
Ongoing modifications include a Self-Contained Navigation System (SCNS) to enhance navigation capabilities, especially in low-level environments. The SCNS incorporates an integrated communications/ navigation management system that features the USAF standard laser gyro inertial navigational unit and the 1553B data bus; installation began in 1990. Other modifications include enhanced station-keeping equipment, 50 kHz VHF Omnirange/lnstrument Landing System (VOR/ILS) receivers, secure voice capability, and GPS capability. Another major modification installs a state-of-the-art autopilot that incorporates a Ground Collision Avoidance System.
The C-130 basic fuel system has required no major modifications to resolve safety concerns. However, slight modifications such as the addition of the 1360 gallon external pylon tanks (installed on C-130E/H aircraft and their variants), valve relocations and operations, and plumbing routing, have been incorporated to extend the capabilities of the C-130.
The C-130E has a wingspan of 132 feet-7 inches, height of 38 feet -2 inches, and 97 feet- 9 inches long. It is an all-weather, four-engine turbo-prop transport aircraft. The primary mission of the airplane is to provide rapid tactical airlift and airdrop of cargo and troops. The basic crew includes a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, loadmaster and a crew chief. Its' normal cruising speed is approximately 300 miles per hour at altitudes from 1,000 to 30,000 feet. The flight deck and the cargo compartment are pressurized. The airplane is capable of airlifting 92 ground troops, 64 fully equipped paratroops or 74 litter patients. It can carry 45,000 pounds of cargo. At a maximum gross weight of 155,000 pounds, the ground roll during take-off is approximately 4,250 feet. The landing distance at a weight of 130,000 pounds is 2,300 feet. This makes the aircraft ideally suited for its frequent missions into remote areas around the globe.
Formal C-130 school training is conducted on C-130E models. While these E-models have served as a good training platform for many years, modifications (EC, HC, WC, etc.) and modernization (H-1, H-2, and H-3 aircraft) necessitate that many students undergo differences training in their particular aircraft upon arrival at home station. The burden of teaching the operation of C-130 aircraft other than E-models has been delegated to the individual unit. The number of units and personnel needing differences training grows with each new modification and modernization to the C-130. This philosophy is not consistent with an integrated training program that strives for economy of instruction and assurance of effective, standardized instruction.
In 1968, thorough inspections of the Air Force C-130 fleet revealed that almost half of the 619 aircraft in operational service had fatigue cracks in the center wing section. The technical community offered numerous recommendations to update and repair this vital aircraft. The baseline C-130E aluminum center wing box design was modified by removing aluminum and adding unidirectional boron reinforcing laminates bonded to the crown of the hat stiffeners in the wing structure. The center wing sections on three C-130E fleet aircraft with fatigue cracks were replaced with the new stronger aluminum wing box. This hybrid design improved the fatigue life by a factor of three while reducing the weight by 300 lb over the conventional metallic wing. Flight tests of the modified center wing structure were later conducted on three C-130E fleet aircraft. These aircraft entered into routine fleet service in 1974 and are still operational. This wing modification to correct fatigue and corrosion on USAF's force of C-130Es has extended the life of the aircraft well into the next century.
On 14 February 2005 the Air Force announced that they are grounding nearly 100 C-130E models because of severe fatigue in their wings, including a dozen that had been flying missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these planes were used in Vietnam, and are literally flying their wings off in the Middle East. The C-130 System Program Office at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia recommended the grounding after inspections of the center wing box structure, where the wings fit to the fuselage. Cracks have appeared in the piece of the wing that supports the weight of the plane. Aircraft will remain grounded until the center wing box is repaired or replaced or the aircraft are retired. The Air Force is thinking about redistributing some of the planes at other bases or with the Air National Guard. Instead of having 33 aircraft here, they might have 24 flyable ones and spread the wealth among the other bases. The cost of replacing the center wing box structure on an aircraft is $9 million.
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