The KC-130 is a multi-role, multi-mission tactical tanker/transport which provides the support required by Marine Air Ground Task Forces. This versatile asset provides in-flight refueling to both tactical aircraft and helicopters as well as rapid ground refueling when required. Additional tasks performed are aerial delivery of troops and cargo, emergency resupply into unimproved landing zones within the objective or battle area, airborne Direct Air Support Center, emergency medevac, tactical insertion of combat troops and equipment, evacuation missions, and support as required of special operations capable Marine Air Ground Task Forces.
The Marine Corps' inventory of KC-130s contains primarily F-variants, which are approaching 40 years of age, and there were concerns that plans to replace the aircraft with KC-130Js might result in a shortfall of 15 aircraft as early as 2001.
The active KC-130F/R fleet comprises 45% of DoD rotary wing aerial refuelers. However, the fleet will probably be unable to support the increased missions warranted by the MV-22 when fielded. Further, the fleet is deteriorating faster than the replacement aireraft, KC-130J, is scheduled to be fielded. The inventory requirement for the aircraft was previously established at (79) airframes, however as of March 2001 there were only (77) airframes, with availability continuing to decrease due to fatigue, corrosion, and obsolescence. Between 1994 and 2001 five airframes were stricken for corrosion, with one additional airframe pending a decision as of early 2001. At the current rate of airframe attrition, the Marine Corps will need at least four KC-130J's per year to maintain the Inventory.
The current fleet has some Congressionally mandated programs, to include: GPS, GPWS and TCAS. There are several pending Safety / Enhancement programs, however, the required modifications will lead to excessive out of service time and reduced availability. The average fleet squadron has only five "up" aircraft on any given day (PAA 12). Studies have found that squadron cannibalization rates have increased 57% in order to support current readiness figures.
The KC-130 is a multi-role, multimission tactical tanker and transport aircraft, well-suited to the mission needs of the forward-deployed Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The Hercules is the only long-range assault support capability organic to the Marine Corps. This aircraft provides both fixed-wing and rotary-wing tactical in-flight refueling; rapid ground refueling of aircraft or tactical vehicles; assault air transport of air-landed or air-delivered personnel, supplies, and equipment; command-and-control augmentation; pathfinder and battlefield illumination; tactical aeromedical evacuation; and search and rescue support.
The KC-130 is equipped with a removable 3,600 gallon (136.26 hectoliter) stainless steel fuel tank that is carried inside the cargo compartment providing additional fuel when required. The two wing-mounted hose and drogue refueling pods each transfer up to 300 gallons per minute (1135.5 liters per minute) to two aircraft simultaneously allowing for rapid cycle times of multiple-receiver aircraft formations (a typical tanker formation of four aircraft in less than 30 minutes). Some KC-130s are also equipped with defensive electronic and infrared countermeasures systems. Development is currently under way for the incorporation of interior/exterior night vision lighting, night vision goggle heads-up displays, global positioning system, and jam-resistant radios.
The KC-130 has 2 drogue equipped refuelling stations, one mounted on each wing outboard of the engines. Each refuelling station consists of a Sargent Fletcher 48-000 refuelling pod, 26 m (85 ft) of hose, MA-2 coupling and a 1.2 m (27 in) diameter high speed fixed-wing or 2.4 m (54 in) diameter low speed helicopter paradrogue. Helicopters may not refuel from a high speed drogue. Fuel flows when the hose is pushed in 1.5 m (5 ft); flow continues provided the hose is maintained in the refuelling position, between 6 - 24 m (20 - 80 ft) of hose extension. Hydraulic pressure provides 90% of the force required to rewind the hose during refuelling to reduce hose slack and whip. The hoses are marked each 3 m (10 ft). The MA-2 coupling requires 140 ft lb of pressure to make contact (2 - 5 kt closure) and 420 ft lb to disconnect.
The aerial refuelling system is comprised of two independent Sargent Fletcher SF300 refuelling systems. These systems currently are used on the wings of KC-130F/R/T aircraft. Each system includes a 93-ft long hose. In full trail position, the hose extends 80 ft from the point at which it exits the aircraft to the drogue tip. The white refuelling hoses have black markings that designate the refuelling range and provide hose movement cues. The two reels are installed side-by-side and cannot be used simultaneously. The reels are hydraulically powered and operate independently, allowing for a redundant capability.
The air-to-air refueling [AAR] height band is from 500 ft to 23,000 ft; speed range for the high speed fixed-wing drogue is 200 to 250 KIAS and for the low speed helicopter drogue is 105 to 130 KIAS. Maximum hose extension/extraction speed is 120 KIAS. Total fuel loads are normally up to 32,660 kg (72,000 lb), with an overload weight of 39,460 kg (87,000 lb). Transferable fuel is dependent on sortie duration; around 18,140 kg (40,000 lb) is available for transfer during a 4 hr flight, assuming a fuel burn rate of 2720 kg/hr (6000 lb/hr). With the removable fuselage fuel tank fitted, transfer rate is about 1850 kg/min (4080 lb/min) with the 2 AAR pump configuration or 925 kg/min (2040 lb/min) with the single AAR pump configuration. Without the fuselage tank, the transfer rate is about 460 kg/min (1020 lb/min). The lower transfer rate can be selected on request.
Red, green and amber lights are located on the trailing edge of each AAR pod; these are AAR pod status lights. The light signal commanding a breakaway is the tanker's lower rotating beacon being switched on. Before a receiver is cleared for contact, the beacon is turned off to indicate the tanker's AAR checklist has been completed. AAR during EMCON constraint requires additional light signals from the tanker; these are provided by hand held ALDIS lamps. These lights will be seen in the paratroop door windows located at the rear of the fuselage on both sides of the aircraft. A steady light signals clear for contact; while in contact, a steady light signals disconnect. A flashing ALDIS means no more fuel available or the tanker is experiencing difficulties. Receivers should disengage and move to a position outboard of the hose. Drogue illumination is provided by refuelling lights located on the outboard leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer. There are 6 equally spaced luminescent paint spots are on the drogue to assist during night operations.
The C-130 is 80% employed in the air-to-air refueling mission and 20% in the logistics mission. The air-to-air refueling capability enables a theater based day/night in-flight refueling capability for both tactical fixed wing (i.e., F/A 18's, A/V-8's, etc.) and rotary wing (i.e., CH-53's, CH-47's, MV-22's, etc.) aircraft through a pod mounted hose and drogue system located on each outboard wing station. A removable cargo bay fuel tank provides an additional 3,600 gallons of fuel. Ground refueling capabilities enables a mobile tactical aircraft pressure refueling capability at unimproved landing sites. The logistic mission enables the transport and delivery of equipment (i.e., light amphibious assault vehicles, Hummers, trucks, etc.), people (i.e., combat troops, parachute troops, Medevac, support troops, evacuees, etc.) and supplies (i.e., ammunition, food, medical, tents and housing, etc.). Cargo can be delivered by either air drop or to unimproved landing sites.
The KC-130F and R can be configured to contain an Airborne Direct Air Support Center (DASC), but lack SINCGARS antennas. The KC130J has no DASC capability. There are different types of platforms that perform various aspects of deep battle management - the AN-UYQ-3A equipped KC-130 deep battle coordinator and the killbox manager or TAC(A) in an F/A-18D. The deep battle coordinator is a critical link between the Deep Battle Cell (DBC) that actively manages the execution of the deep battle and the killbox manager/TAC(A) aircraft for the execution of the deep battle. A deep battle coordinator in an AN-UYQ-3A equipped KC-130 (DASC(A) configuration) will have a more robust communications capability than an F/A-18D and can manage a much greater area. However, the deep battle coordinator mission is considerably different than the DASC(A) mission, which assists the DASC in the management of air support for the close fight as an airborne extension of the DASC. One aircraft probably cannot and should not do both roles due to the different missions as well as communications and personnel limitations of the AN UYQ-3A. Since there are limited numbers of KC-130 platforms and its primary mission is inflight refueling, relying on a KC-130 as a deep battle coordinator is problematic.
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