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C-130J Hercules

The J model is an improvement on previous models in that it brings enhanced avionics and propulsion systems to the fight, providing additional aircraft range, higher maximum speed and shorter takeoff distance.

While it has continued to upgrade through modification, the Air Force budgeted to resume fleet modernization through acquisition of the C-130J. The C-130J had the familiar silhouette, but was in largely a brand new airplane with significantly improved performance. The C-130J by 2007 was declared to be approximately 70 percent new compared to existing versions. Compared to the earlier production C-130E, maximum speed was up 21% and climb time down 50%. Cruising altitude was 40% higher and range 40% longer. With new engines and props, the J could reach 28,000 feet in just 14 minutes. For complicated low altitude maneuvers, new avionics and dual head up displays made it easier and safer to operate. It also offered reduced manpower requirements, lower operating costs, support costs, and projected life-cycle costs. The new model featured a two-crew-member flight system, 6,000 shp Allison AE2100D3 engines with all-composite Dowty R391 propellers, digital avionics and mission computers, and improved reliability and maintainability.

The Air Force had approximately 700 C-130Es and C-130Hs of different configurations that continued to various tasks, most notably, theater long- range, day-or-night airland or airdrop missions. The Air Force had begun buying the modernized C-130J with the intent of replacing the older E and H variants. Lockheed invested $1 billion to develop the new plane, but Pentagon budget priorities resulted in fewer US government orders than expected. As of mid-2001 the Air Force had ordered 37 of an originally planned buy of 168 planes. Lockheed subsequently secured sales of the C-130J to the Marines, the Coast Guard and numerous foreign countries.

The C-130J was a modification of the C-130H, undertaken by Lockheed Martin as a private venture, with intended sales to the United States and various foreign markets. The C-130J/J-30 integrated digital technology was designed to provide the capability to airdrop in instrument conditions without zone markers, as a baseline feature of the aircraft. When the high resolution ground mapping capability of the AN/APN-241 Low Power Color Radar is coupled with the dual INS/GPS and digital mapping systems, the C-130J/J-30 would provide a single-ship or formation all weather aerial delivery. This meant the entire J/J-30 fleet would be all weather airdrop capable. C-130Js were intended to be delivered as weather (WC), electronic combat (EC), and tanker (KC) configured aircraft in addition to the standard cargo configuration.

The new C-130J was intended to be more than an evolutionary leap. It was developed in response to Air Force concerns about the growing cost of operating its older tactical airlift fleet and from a desire to take advantage of technology that could offer significant operational leverage in supporting combat forces at the point of attack. The C-130J introduced new technologies and designs that would significantly reduce the life-cycle cost of operating the aircraft while dramatically improving overall system reliability. These new technologies would make aircraft maintenance simpler and far less frequent than earlier generations of the C-130 aircraft. The C-130J incorporates state-of-the-art technology that significantly improved performance and reduced ownership costs. Lockheed Martin projected that the C-130J/J-30 would lower cost of ownership by as much as 45% depending on the scenario used. Early model C-130s required more than 20 maintenance manhours per flight hour (MMH/FH) while it was intended that the C-130J/J-30 will require 10 or less MMH/FH.

The standard C-130J has essentially the same dimensions as the C-130E/H but the stretched J-30 version added 15 feet. The J-30 incorporates two extension plugs, one forward and one aft. The forward plug is 100 inches long while the rear plug is 80 inches for a total of 180 inches or 15 feet. With its 3,000 nautical mile range, increased speed, and air refueling capability, the C-130J-30 would complement the C-5/C-17 airlift team. The J-30 was designed to work in the strategic, as well as tactical or intratheater, environment. The J-30 was planned to be an effective force multiplier in executing the US Army Strategic Brigade Airdrop (SBA). The J-30 could airdrop 100% of the SBA requirement. No longer was it necessary to expend scarce heavy lift resources on strategic contingency requirements. Whether it be a channel, special airlift, training, or contingency airdrop mission, the J-30 is projected to be able to handle it all at a significantly reduced cost.

The extended C-130J (formerly C-130J-30 and CC-130J) aircraft provided additional cargo carrying capacity for the USAF combat delivery mission. The longer aircraft could handle up to 128 combat troops, 92 paratroopers or a combination of passengers and their cargo up to the compartment capacity. Compared with the older Hercules' capacity of 92 combat troops or 64 paratroopers, planners said it makes mathematical sense to use the longer aircraft. Fewer sorties could mean fewer risks to aircraft, crews and troops. While minimizing potential risks ranks above and beyond cost benefits, the Js have also contributed to substantial savings in that arena.

Load Comparisons

Cargo Floor Length 40 ft 55 ft 37%
463L Pallets 5 7 40%
Medical Litters 74 97 31%
CDS Bundles 16 24 50%
Combat Troops 92 128 39%
Paratroopers 64 92 44%

One of the first foreign customers for the C-130J was the United Kingdom. The first C-130J-30 ordered by the Royal Air Force rolled off the production floor on October 18, 1995. Its first flight was made on April 5, 1996. To ensure service for the Hercules well into the current millennium, twenty-five next-generation C-130Js were ordered from Lockheed Martin in the early 1990s. The RAF acquired two versions of the C-130J, fifteen of the longer fuselage C-130J-30 aircraft, known by the RAF as the C. Mk. 4, and ten of the standard C-130J, known as the C. Mk. 5. The arrival of the first C-130Js meant the return of some early C-130Ks to the manufacturer for refurbishment and redelivery to new customers. The remaining examples retained in RAF service were to be used for tactical, special, and some strategic operations.

Beginning in FY96, the United STates Air Force started procuring C-130Js as replacements for the older C-130Es and Hs. Priority for replacement was combat delivery aircraft. C-130J ensured total force structure numbers are maintained, while reducing costs of ownership. The program was slated to procure 12 C-130Js at a rate of two per year from FY96 to FY01. The program could be expanded in FY02 to procure 12 C-130Js a year to replace the active duty and ARC C-130Es which were nearing the end of their useable service life.

C-130J acquisition by the Air Force took place in a nontraditional manner. As a commercial off-the-shelf system, this latest version of the venerable C-130 aircraft presented unusual issues concerning whether or not it was covered by the live fire test and evaluation (LFT&E) requirements of Title 10 United States Code (USC) Section 2366 and Department of Defense (DoD) Regulation 5000.2-R. For the first time in the 40-plus year history of the popular Hercules transport, the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems signed a commercial practices contract for the sale of C-130Js. Awarded on 06 November 1996, the basic contract included an initial order for two aircraft, associated data, and spares, funded in fiscal year 1996. The contract also contained five years of options through the year 2000 for additional aircraft, interim contractor support, data, training, and support. By late 1996 Lockheed Martin had completed assembly of the first "production" C-130J (Serial # 5440), one of 12 ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force.

The LFT&E statute ties the Live Fire Test (LFT) program to formal milestones found in standard DoD acquisition programs. However, the C-130J acquisition was not structured according to these milestones because of the nontraditional acquisition approach. To preserve the spirit of LFT&E and "do the right thing," the Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), jointly committed to a C-130J LFT&E program that met the intent of a high-quality LFT&E program, whether or not this was required by law. This commitment was formalized in a memorandum signed by both agencies in March 1998.

The backdrop for the joint Air Force and DOT&E memorandum was a C-130H and C-130J vulnerability analysis completed in 1996. This analysis identified the major ballistic vulnerability contributors and areas where data voids existed. In response to the study findings, the Air Force structured a multiphase C-130 Vulnerability Reduction Program (VRP) to better quantify the aircraft's vulnerabilities and investigate the feasibility of vulnerability reduction approaches. In addition, DOT&E and the Air Force agreed on other vulnerability areas to investigate under a C-130J LFT&E.

The Air Force agreed to fund the VRP and other testing and analysis efforts that would have been conducted as part of the C-130J acquisition. OSD agreed to fund the hydrodynamic ram testing and a mission abort study through its Joint Live Fire (JLF) program. All of the LFT&E program elements were added to the C-130J Test and Evaluation Master Plan. As the elements are completed, the results would be reported to DOT&E and included in the reports required by the LFT law. Through the spirit of doing the right thing, the USC Section 2366 requirements would be met, a more survivable weapon system would result, and the lives of operators would be protected to the maximum extent possible.

Due to system immaturity, operational testing was initially segmented into three phases of testing: Phase 1A, Phase 1B, and Phase 2. Phase 1A evaluated the ability of the aircraft to be used to train pilots. Phase 1B evaluated the aircraft's ability to perform the air/land mission. Phase 2, planned for FY06, would evaluate the ability to perform all missions to include airdrop. Based on the evaluation of test results conducted from Phase 1A and Phase 1B, put into the In the FY01 report, DOT&E determined that the aircraft was not operationally suitable or effective. The evaluated reliability, maintainability, availability, and logistics supportability during Phase 1B were found to be below operational requirements.

Deficiencies were noted with on-aircraft integrated diagnostics and fault isolation systems, portable maintenance aids, maintenance technical orders, and the availability of spare parts. Additional contractor field service representatives were determined to be required to assist in the maintenance of the aircraft for the foreseeable future. The airdrop mission could not be evaluated until deficiency corrections were implemented and the developmental tests completed in FY06. Aircrew workload issues, software discrepancies, and cargo loading and constraint requirements were still major issues. The using commands (United States Air Force, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard) were unable to verify manpower requirements to field this system until the crew workload evaluation was complete.

One of the near-term issues requiring resolution was the vulnerability of the aircraft to Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The Air Force was concerned with the proliferation of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles that have shown to pose a serious threat to large aircraft in the past. To combat this threat, the Air Force has initiated a program called "Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM)" to equip some, but not all, C-130 and other transport and tanker aircraft with lasers capable of jamming infrared guided missiles. Another near term possible issue being debated was the allegation that the new C-130J was extremely vulnerable to gunfire striking its wings and causing fires, and the Air Force should consider installing gas generators to reduce the risk of fire.

President George W. Bush's FY03 budget included funding for the acquisition of new C-130J and KC-130J aircraft over five years. The President's budget request included a proposal for a multi-year procurement of C-130J aircraft for the Air Force, with funding for the purchase of 60 C-130J aircraft over 5 years built by Lockheed in Marietta.

The Pentagon's inspector general in a 34-page report, dated 23 July 2004, that substantiated the allegation that the C-130J aircraft did not meet contract specifications and therefore could not perform its operational mission. The Air Force conditionally accepted 50 C-130J aircraft at a cost of $2.6 billion even though none of the aircraft met commercial contract specifications or operational requirements. The Air Force also paid Lockheed Martin more than 99 percent of the C-130J aircraft's contracted price for the delivered aircraft. As a result, the Government fielded C-130J aircraft that could perform the intended mission, forcing the users to incur additional operations and maintenance costs to operate and maintain older C-130 mission-capable aircraft because the C-130J aircraft could be used only for training.

The Inspector General recommended that the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition should stop the System Program Office from contracting for additional block upgrades until a contract-compliant aircraft was designed, developed, and delivered. Further recommendations included using Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 15 for future modifications that add to the scope of the statement of work to the C-130J multiyear contract (F33657-03-C-2014), and increased contract withhold amounts for acceptance of noncompliant aircraft, and develop a schedule for completing outstanding retrofits to accepted and fielded aircraft.

The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition did not concur with the finding and recommendations. The Assistant Secretary stated that the commercial acquisition strategy of the C-130J was legitimate, the Air Force properly managed the program, and DoD provided effective oversight. The Assistant Secretary stated that Lockheed Martin is delivering contract-compliant C-130J aircraft, and that upgrades are necessary to meet DoD requirements. He also stated that the use of Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12 was appropriate. In addition, withholds were consistent with the contract, and the Air Force did not have problems motivating Lockheed Martin to correct within-scope deficiencies. The Assistant Secretary also stated that all outstanding retrofits had been scheduled or completed.

The U.S. Air Force's C-130J Hercules deployed for the first time in December 2004. The deployed force included operators and support Airmen from Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143rd Airlift Squadron, Maryland ANG's 135th AS, Air Force Reserve's Command's 815th AS at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and California ANG's 115th AS at Channel Islands ANG Station.

DOD had mandated Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) and navigation safety (nav safety) capabilities for the C-130J weapon system. USAF C/CC/EC/WC-130J aircraft, in the Block 5.3 configuration, are partially GATM/nav safety compliant. Capabilities provided in the Block 5.3 configuration included Required Navigation Performance (RNP)-10 (miles), RNP-5, Basic Area Navigation (BRNAV), Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) Version 7.0, FM immunity for Instrument Landing System (aka protected ILS), and the aircraft communications system software necessary to operate VHF communications radios with 8.33 MHz frequency separation. The RDT&E funds would enable development, integration, and testing of the remaining GATM/nav safety requirements needed on USAF C/CC/EC/WC-130J aircraft. These capabilities include RNP-4, RNP-1, Terrain Approach Warning System (TAWS), Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) Global Positioning System (GPS), Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), Mode Select (Mode S) Beacon Transponder System with data link capability, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Address (ADS-A), Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), satellite communications (SATCOM) voice and data link capability, high frequency data link (HFDL), Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), and AMC Mobility 2000 (M2K) communications.

C/CC/EC/WC-130J aircraft will be modified using a 'block upgrade' strategy. The full GATM/nav safety requirement will be met in four block upgrades: Block 6.0, which begins with FY03 RDT&E funding and continues with FY04 RDT&E funding, Block 7.0, which will start in FY05, Block 8.0, which will start in FY07, and Block 9.0, which will start in FY09. The proportion of GATM/nav safety requirements allocated to Blocks 6.0 thru 9.0 was determined via a design trade study conducted by Lockheed Martin (the C-130J prime contractor) and verified by the C-130J system program office and AMC.

From October to December 2004, tests at Edwards AFB determined the final adjustments needed to bring the C-130J Hercules' Block 5.4 upgrade software improvement to the operational fleet. The upgrade was designed to correct operational limitations present in C-130Js by enhancing the cargo-handling system, as well as advancing the communication, navigation and identification systems. The 418th Flight Test Squadron's testing included formation flying, air drop events, traffic collision avoidance system tests, computer-based approach testing and the most comprehensive noise and vibration tests ever conducted on the C-130. Prior to the upgrade, the C-130J had limited air drop capability releases with a 28,000-pound limit on the release of container delivery systems even though the max allowable weight is 42,000 pounds.

The weight limit was put in place because of safety issues with the buffer stop assembly system that secured the pallets only being able to withstand so much pressure. However, with the low velocity air drop capability, the C-130J aircraft would be able to drop the maximum weight, given that the low-velocity pallets are bigger than standard pallets and are held in place by anchors rather than the buffer stops. The software was returned to the manufacturer and was as of early January 2005 undergoing modifications to correct these deficiencies. Software testing was expected to continue in February 2005 with completion expected in May, and the upgrades scheduled to be operational within the C-130J by the fall 2005. Operational testing of the C-130J scheduled for November 2005, will determine whether the plane will meet full operational requirements.

In December 2004 the C-130J Hercules from the Maryland Air National Guard left on its first deployment in Iraq. The deployment group met initially in Baltimore in July 2004 to map out the strategy to get everything in place. The culmination of the six months of work came on 10 December 2004 when the first C-130J to deploy into combat left Quonset, Rhode Island.

In February 2005, back-to-back sorties - eight flown in eight days - cleared the air drop envelope on the stretch C-130J for the container delivery system, or CDS, to carry up to nearly 40,000 pounds of equipment packaged in bundles. The CDS was used in combat to deliver the 'bacon and bullets' to warfighters in the field, and of the 168 bundles released between January 24th and 28th of that year, none were damaged and tests attained a 100 percent survivability rate. During the sorties, Army testers had a specific objective as to what the damage rate can be expected in order to calculate how much equipment is needed to be dropped so that warfighters on the ground receive the amount needed. The 100-percent survivability rate would mean the stretch C-130J does not have to carry extra equipment and supplies for the Army.

The Pentagon plans to save more than $5 billion by ending the C-130J program in FY07 and scrapping the purchase of 63 aircraft that was planned through 2011. The FY06 budget proposed to end production of the Air Force's C-130J at 53, rather than the 168 originally projected. At $66.5 million, then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that the aircraft had become increasingly expensive to build and to maintain, especially given the ability to modernize existing C-130s. The Air Force said that shutting down the C-130J line will cost between $500 million and a billion dollars.

Previous years' Congressional appropriations procured eight C-130Js for the 135th AG, Baltimore, MD, four extended C-130Js for the 143rd AW, Quonset Point, RI, and four extended C-130Js for the 146th AW, Channel Islands, CA. The 193rd SOW, Harrisburg IAP, PA, has received one EC-130J per year from FY97 to FY01 for a total of five aircraft, three of which have been modified into EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft and two into Super J/Senior Hunter aircraft. The FY03 budget appropriated funding for one additional (sixth) EC-130J. A subsequent appropriation of $23M was provided for Super J capability.

If future C-130Js and the associated spares and support equipment are not funded, the ANG will continue to have two mixed units of Js and Es. The 143 AW at Rhode Island and the 146 AW at Channel Islands have 4 extended C-130Js and 4 C-130Es each. A mixed fleet severely impacts unit operational capability, aircrew and maintenance training, logistics, and manpower issues. Not funding future J model acquisitions have delayed overall modernization of the ANG C-130 fleet and reduced the combat capability of the MAF as a number of C-130Es may be forced into premature retirement.

In September 2006 the declared an initial operational capability for the C-130J despite still being rated as only partially capable of some missions. In April 2006, DOD testing officials reported several shortfalls. Program officials planned to address future US Air Force needs and correct deficiencies identified during operational testing with modernization efforts funded by DOD and foreign military customers.

In October 2006, the program was transitioned into a FAR part 15 negotiated non-commercial contract mainly to facilitate collection of data on costs and pricing of the remaining 39 aircraft to be procured. Program officials estimate the Air Force will save approximately $168 million by converting to a noncommercial negotiated acquisition.

A 2008 GAO report reiterated that while program officials believed the initial C-130J design was stable, deficiencies were discovered that had to be corrected in order to meet minimum warfighter requirements, which resulted in the baseline aircraft at the time. Other design shortfalls to the baseline aircraft were discovered that affected the C-130J's ability to complete certain airdrop operations. Program officials stated that options to address these shortfalls were being developed and were expected to result in aircraft testing in the summer of 2008. Air navigation improvements had to be made so the C-130J could continue to successfully operate in international airspace. These improvements and others would be added to the aircraft through modernization efforts, resulting in a significant development cost increase. Program officials reported no issues with the design maturity of modernization efforts currently under way.

The first of four planned modernization efforts to upgrade the baseline aircraft were tested during 2007, and installation on fielded aircraft was expected to begin in 2008. The second modernization effort, a collaborative endeavor funded by both the Air Force and foreign military customers, was in the initial planning stages, with developmental testing scheduled to begin in FY10. The other two modernization efforts were in a preliminary planning stage, with upgrade activities expected to continue through 2015. The Air Force had budgeted approximately $400 million, as of 2008, in development funding to pursue the four modernization efforts that does not include the additional costs to install these upgrades on fielded C-130Js in the future.

On 06 June 2016 the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Mobility Directorate signed a multiyear contract with Lockheed Martin to procure 78 C-130J Super Hercules with the option to buy up to 83 over the following five years. The agreement was the second multiyear contract for the C-130J and it saves the Defense Department about $680 million and provides the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard with important airlift capabilities. "This contract is significant because it provides the taxpayer with the best bang for their buck and allows our customers, including the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force Special Operations Command, and Air Force Mobility Command, to save money and use it for other requirements," said Joseph Fountain, a supervisory contract officer with the Mobility Directorate and lead negotiator on the contract with Lockheed.

Acquisition experts from the Mobility Directorate negotiated for three years to finalize the details of the contract which will provide new aircraft to replace legacy C-130H models and add to the J models currently in the Air Force fleet. The benefit of multiyear contracts versus year-to-year contracts is that they provide stability and cut costs. It allows Lockheed to sign long term supplier agreements and commitments, and invest in new equipment to produce the aircraft. The contract also funds an affordability program in which Lockheed receives $35 million up front and agrees to $65 million in labor reductions over the life of the contract, which according to Fountain will allow the company to assemble the aircraft more efficiently.

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